Signing up an agency used to be simple. You simply measure their past success and coverage. However, evaluating a PR agency these days starts with some soul searching. As highlighted in my previous blog, you are not assigning a PR job scope, but rather you are acquiring a PR team. So just like any HR practice, you need to begin by understanding what you really need.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a brand story? Or are you looking to build one?
- What are the measurable end results you are looking for–more leads, more engagement from your customers, strong publicity in key publications, better geographical coverage or building your customer list? (Saying that you want to increase publicity, launch a product or create a brochure is not good enough)
- What are the marketing campaigns where your PR professionals will play an essential role?
- How do you want to monitor and measure your PR success?
- What is the nominal market rate for good PR agencies? [bctt tweet=”Evaluating a #PR agency these days starts with some soul searching” username=”@BroadPR”]
Once you have identified what you want, below are some questions to ask that go beyond just the usual metrics of reach, coverage and media relationships:
- Are you dealing with the pitching team or the actual team? (Because you need to build your rapport with the actual team, not the salesperson)
- What is their churn? (this is a big problem for larger agencies, and it can breed inconsistencies in PR execution that often leads to frustration)
- Are they digitally savvy or are they going to ask you to work with a separate digital team? (This depends on how important digital marketing is to you, and if it is, you need someone who is digitally aware, especially with digital marketing and PR evolving fast)
- What measurements do they use to monitor their own progress, and are these measurements compatible with yours? (Because you need to ensure that how you measure success is how they do it)
- What is their growth strategy and do you see it aligned with yours? (Because you do want a PR partner for life)
- Do they have domain knowledge within the team, or do you see the need to work through a freelancer or contract staff to accomplish this?
- What are their ideas for using earned/paid media to boost your campaigns? (Ask for examples or free form ideas so you can gauge their knowledge)
- How do they justify their costs? (Because cheap does not mean good, but it also means there are bargains you may be missing)
- What are their strengths in content creation, management and distribution? Do they outsource these? (It’s ok to outsource, but they should have an internal person who should own the whole process for you to work with)
- How do they do PR in other geographies to which you want to expand? (You need to know whether they will be managing other agencies or offices upfront)
- How do they measure, monitor and pivot according to changing sentiment? (Important as online sentiment changes on an hourly basis these days)
- What are their contingencies if a team member leaves, or do they have a solid success plan? (Crucial because you are tying your future messaging hopes to individuals)
- How are they are looking to transfer some of the knowledge and skillset to key individuals of your company? (Related to the above)
These are just some of the questions you should be prepared to ask. It gives you the gist of how choosing a PR agency is not just all facts and figures. After all, you are looking for what you hope to be successful “marriage”.