I often get asked by marketing professionals employing PR consultancies: ‘How do I know that they are doing a good job?’ My response is to get them to ask themselves the following questions:
1. Do they understand your business and the industry you work in?
2. Are they happy to set targets and be reviewed regularly and do they meet or exceed these targets?
3. Have they reviewed messaging and is messaging analysis linked to their targets?
4. Do they have the ear of the senior team?
5. Are they proactive?
6. Are they on top of the media agenda?
7. Do they really get social media?
If your answer is yes to all or most of the above, the chances are they are doing a good job for you but if you don’t recognise these points, you may want to have a chat with them. Before giving them notice, first ask yourselves some questions about how you (or your team) manage them.
My experience in the industry tells me that where consultancies excel, it is as much about how well they are managed as it is about the skills of their teams. Sure, the agency needs to have a culture of measurement and evaluation, but the relationship and chemistry between client and consultancy is equally, if not more, important.
The reality is that people work with people and if one client is approachable, interested, supportive, intelligent, strategic and genuinely wants to work in partnership with their consultancy, they get better results than a client who is not those things.
When considering appointing an agency therefore, here are my top tips:
Do your homework – make sure you shortlist those consultancies who have a track record in your industry and have a similar ethos and culture to you;
Try to find a consultancy where you are a bigger fish in a smaller pond;
Don’t be hoodwinked by an all singing dancing presentation by the managing director, check out the pitch team will be the actual team working on the account;
Ask them to respond to a brief and look for their strategic thinking, as well as evidence that they can deliver;
Ask them to suggest targets. These can be media coverage, web hits, increased positive conversations on social media channels, increase in sales (particularly relevant for clients selling products directly to the consumer) and delivery of priority messaging in priority target press; and
Check out their social media skills – most consultancies say they understand but many are still grappling with it. Look for evidence of previous successful social media campaigns.
Most importantly, take a view on whether you want to work with the individuals. Chemistry will keep the relationship on an even keel when things inevitably go wrong from time to time. With this in mind, don’t underestimate how important it is to market the consultancy internally to the senior management team. Changing consultancy is expensive, time consuming and distracting. Try and find a consultancy that you can imagine working with for the long-term and be clear about what success looks like. If you and your PR consultancy have chemistry and clarity, you are off to a good start.