It’s a sad fact of life that not every business relationship is meant to be. Luckily, however, you can learn to screen potential associates before your relationship takes off, saving yourself a lot of time and hassle — not to mention money. Here are nine factors that must be present when choosing a PR agency for a functional, successful relationship—and how to ensure they’re represented in yours:
1. A Good Name
According to IBISWorld, there are more than 8,000 PR firms in the United States. That’s a lot to choose from. First and foremost, weed out the chaff by looking for an agency with a good name and brand recognition. Right away, you’ll eliminate people who might be too inexperienced or take advantage of you.
2. A Perceptive Approach
In addition to having a good reputation, top PR agencies have unique approaches that cut through commonplace beliefs and get to the heart of the issue. To stand out to our clients, we make sure to spend a lot of time with them to discover what their customers are truly looking for. Make sure the agency you select has taken the time to get to know your business and industry.
This may seem obvious, but unfortunately, this facet often falls by the wayside. When choosing a PR agency, make sure it’s competitive. Does its strategy work for other companies? Can it provide references? Does it use the cutting-edge techniques that your competition are getting noticed for? These are crucial questions to answer before you sign on the dotted line.
4. A Willingness to Work With Others
The mark of a great client-agency relationship circles back to synergy. If the client is able to lean on the agency’s professional experience and collaborative skills, it’s a winner. Many PR agencies routinely work with other types of firms such as design, marketing, speaking and consulting. A PR agency that is great at building consensus can be a huge asset to your team and help you work with other firms. Those that aren’t may hinder your success, so choose wisely.
5. Obvious Expertise
How do you know you’re not just hiring a yes-man? Look for a blog that is jam-packed with insightful tips. Follow the PR firm on social media, and take note of whether it offers valuable insights to clients and prospects for free. In your initial conversations, note whether the firm makes you work to get an answer or if it just gives it honestly and openly. An experienced, knowledgeable firm with years in the industry will speak directly and respectfully to you.
6. Trending Knowledge
The rules of the marketing and PR game change quickly, especially in the digital age. You know you’ve got to keep up or get out of the race, but does your PR firm? A good relationship between a client and an agency is built on expertise about current trends customized to fit your specific industry or vertical. Ask questions like “How familiar are you with mobile communications strategies?” and “Can you advise us on social media strategy?” Don’t be shy about requesting proof. Also, be sure to ask about consumer insights on your business or industry that the firm is bringing to the table.
Good PR firms cast a wide net. They know journalists, industry figureheads, thought leaders, and other PR agencies. They build solid relationships with design firms, marketing organizations and front-running blogs. And their connections are available to you when you work with them. If this isn’t the case, you can do better.
8. The Right Background
If your PR firm specializes in B2B communications and you’re in a B2C field, your partnership isn’t going to work. Before committing, interview the agency and find out what kind of companies it typically supports. The right kind of industry is a must. The right field is also ideal: You won’t get very far as a consumer care products company if the agency you hire is all about tech.
9. The Right Price Point
You want the best, but your budget is important, too. If the agency can’t do what you need for an amount you’re able to pay, you have two options: Either do a little less and work your way up, or look somewhere else.
You have every right to expect all of the above in your relationship with a PR firm. If the firm doesn’t deliver on even one of these points, it’s fair to move on if you have to. A good agency will hit them effortlessly — or at least have a good explanation if it can’t. As with every other kind of relationship, good communication is key, so never be afraid to bring up your concerns. Your relationship — and your company’s success — depends on it.