Monday, August 18, 2008

What to Look for in a PR Agency

Choosing among service firms can be confusing – whether accountants, law firms, public relations agencies or other consultants. Typically organizations in each category describe their services in ways unintentionally similar to their competition, relying on jargon or industry catch phrases (that only their competitors understand) to differentiate themselves. When evaluating among PR agencies, creativity can be an important criteria, but it is not the only key to a successful relationship. Consider these questions in your agency selection process as the right answers can increase the likehihood of your communications strategy improving your brand and affecting your organization's performance.

The following questions were designed to help determine which agency is more likely to succeed on your business.

  1. Who really will be working on your project? Senior folks at the pitch – or junior staffers learning on your dime? And what percentage of their time will be devoted to you...or to another, perhaps larger account?
  2. Is their experience current, relevant – or is it outdated?
  3. What is the chemistry like on the team? Between you and the agency? Can you envision comfortably working with the team you've been assigned?
  4. Does the agency look at you as a partner or as a prospect? In other words, are its people interested in what services are most important to achieving your goals – or in the agency's bottom-line by trying to sell you on services you don't need?
  5. Do they listen well to your objectives and directions? Can they document how they've gained measurable success for other businesses like yours?
  6. Are they responsive and accessible – or don't get back to you (or the media) because they're always in agency meetings (or worse, busy working for other clients)? Are you a priority for them?
  7. Are they passionate about your business? (Or only for those with big budgets?) What is their client philosophy?
  8. Are they passionate about PR? How well do they know the media? When did the senior members last talk to the media?
  9. Are their plans dusted-off from another client – or developed specifically for your business, objectives, etc?
  10. Do they suggest ways to be more effective – without increasing the budget? Do you see them adding value to what you already have on your team?

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