If you work with a public relations agency, you’ve probably wondered if you’re getting everything you should from the team. This is especially true if you inherited an agency, or if you suspect that your long-time firm is getting a little complacent.
Having worked in agencies for most of my career, I can attest that the level and quality of service agencies deliver can vary drastically. I’ve also worked with many clients who have confided their agency horror stories to me. When I ask why they stayed with the offending agency, the response usually was: we didn’t know any better.
One way to find out if your agency is delivering everything they should is to compare services by working with multiple agencies for a period. But who needs that hassle? Instead, here is my simple insider’s guide to ensuring you’re getting the best work from your agency.
- Does your agency act like a business partner, or an order taker? Both agencies and their client managers should view the engagement as a partnership, not simply a vendor relationship. The difference is that a partner will be keenly focused on helping the client achieve important business objectives. This includes challenging clients about PR goals that may run up the metrics but don’t advance meaningful progress. Your agency should regularly ask questions such as: what are the quarterly marketing goals; has the vision of the company changed; what are the most pressing challenges the business is facing today? Then they should provide solutions to meet these challenges.
- Is your PR team comprised of visible and active senior level contributors? It’s common in the industry for agencies to stack early meetings with senior level associates, but then turn the day-to-day work over to much more junior staffers. This shortchanges clients by removing the experience that drives real value. If you’re not interacting regularly with a senior associate that may be a sign that your business isn’t all that valuable to the agency. It certainly is a sign that you’re not getting the best mix of talent.
- Does your PR team regularly deliver fresh ideas? The best PR pros are those who read voraciously, stay updated on trends, and visualize connections in information. These pros are good at finding new ways to tell your story to new audiences by identifying how to leverage news and trends to promote your brand. They also are excited to bring new ideas to the client to try. Your agency should regularly bring you new, creative ideas, instead of waiting for you to direct their activities.
- Do you trust your agency team to represent your brand? Your PR team acts as your surrogate when it comes to interacting with reporters, so it’s important that you trust their experience, judgment and temperament. You need to be confident that your team understands what journalists want and the best way to approach them, and also deliver top-notch materials. It’s increasingly common for frustrated reporters to call out poor PR reps publicly on social media, so missteps can reflect negatively on your brand.
- Is your agency team accountable for their progress? A good PR team will work with a client to put measurements in place that are meaningful and to host regular meetings to exchange information. They also will deliver insight from metrics to make pivots in strategy in order to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Over time, this makes the PR program much more effective and efficient. Agencies also should have the capability to benchmark your share of voice with your competitors. If your agency is reporting only on output versus results, you are being shortchanged.
- Does your agency team take pride in their work? Effective PR encompasses many different skills, including the ability to write, a quick understanding of complex issues, and attention to detail. It’s also important that executives honor deadlines, and are available when needed. A lack of pride is evident when materials are poorly written, deadlines are missed, and team members don’t feel the same sense of urgency that you do. You should expect your team to produce work that they are proud of.
If you’re not getting what you need from your public relations agency, speak up. If your agency truly is a partner, they will be happy you did and will do whatever they can to improve the relationship.
If things don’t improve, don’t be afraid to make a change. See our tips for selecting the right PR firm.