When it comes time for a company to hire a public relations agency, there are a lot of things to consider.
An organization must determine whether it has the budget and it’s truly the right time to engage. Sometimes, opting not
to hire an agency is the better move.
Other times it’s appropriate to make the big choice, but it’s not something to do lightly. If your organization is in a position to more forward and the search has begun, here are four questions to ask before selecting an agency of record.
1. Do the employees have the experience?
It’s important to engage with an agency that has the knowledge and experience to help you fulfill your PR goals. For instance, if your organization is looking to focus on media relations and secure national stories, be sure to ask the agency for examples of prominent hits they’ve landed. We use our Pinterest account
to display our recent success along these and other lines, as well as our company’s culture and interests. We also direct prospects to our “Case Studies” board where they can view our capabilities in various marketing disciplines, such as shortening our clients’ sales cycles and delivering qualified leads.
2. What tools does the agency use and have access to?
It’s always good to know which tools a public relations agency has at its disposal to help its reps perform their jobs. If you’re looking for an agency to help manage your social media platforms, ask what they use to manage conversations—such as HootSuite
, or another solution. Also ask about their use of specific applications. For instance, ShortStack
enables users to create Facebook applications, contests, and custom forms. Be sure, too, to ask about media databases. Though many PR pros have established relationships with journalists, sometimes they have to find new contacts in other industries. We have a Cison
account, and that platform helps us reach the proper media contacts rather than spending our time researching online.
3. Does it feel like a good fit?
Although experience and staying within budget are crucial, it’s also important to make sure the agency is a good fit for you. After all, your company is going to be working and communicating regularly with the agency you select. If you meet with an agency and something in your gut is telling you no, go with your instinct. If there are any red flags, it’s better to move on and look at other options than try to force something to work.
4. Do the managers practice what they preach?
If a company is looking to hire an agency to fulfill a specific goal, it’s important to ensure that the agency practices what they preach. For example, with so many public relations agencies handing social media for clients these days, it would be important for that agency to demonstrate a thorough understanding and be present on the platform in question. Do agency reps post regularly? For example, when you’re looking to hire a website developer, you want that firm’s website and work to look professional. It would be a smart move to go with an agency that practices what they preach.
Although there are other aspects to consider, such as location and competitive advantage, considering these four questions will help ensure you make the right decision and team up with an agency that’s a good fit.
Alyson Jamison is the senior program manager at Stalwart Communications, a pay-on-performance PR and marketing agency. Contact her on Twitter at @AlysonJamison or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.