How do I know if my PR agency is doing a good job?
Are you thinking about recruiting a PR agency or perhaps you feel your current agency could be adding a little more magic? This article is about how to assess whether your agency is actually doing a good job and what a great PR agency should be delivering.
As with any effective external agency, be it an advertising, content marketing or PR agency, your chosen agency should be organised, disciplined and transparent. Has your PR agency provided a clear Scope of Work with deliverables that are continuously monitored in the weekly/bi-weekly status report?
Seamless, fully-integrated or bolt-on PR
Our experience shows that it is important to be flexible and align with a client’s approach to processes and project management (provided the approach is efficient). Is your agency happy to use your collaboration tools, say Trello or Basecamp? Are agency teams updating them in real-time and saving relevant documents into your shared folders? Such things may seem trivial or overly process-focused, but they do indicate that your agency is mindful of your business processes and is committed to helping you with your daily job.
Immersed in your business
I believe one of the key indicators distinguishing great PR agencies from average ones is the willingness and ability to immerse themselves in your business. Investing the time and resource to truly understand your products/services and market proposition will enable your agency to ‘sell’ your company to the media and other key stakeholders successfully.
Is your agency asking you about your competitors and your specific market segment? Has the agency team read your annual report or reviewed your marketing strategy? Are they asking for access to relevant internal documents (say customer personas or messaging)? If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’, this is a good sign that the agency is really trying to scratch under the surface and understand the gist of your business.
Proactive and one step ahead
Most PR agencies tend to be proactive right after appointment, suggesting programmes of activities, new media targets or new angles to pitch your business to the press. But increasing your brand awareness and strengthening your competitive position is a long-term game, and truly outstanding PR agencies will keep the momentum and maintain proactivity after the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of about six months.
If your agency is occasionally bringing in additional sets of eyes from across its business, or is keeping you on your toes with new ideas and proposals that might take you out of your comfort zone, you can be sure they are trying to keep things fresh and take your communication function to the next level.
Great things happen when, usually as a result of a long-term partnership, your agency can predict your next move and comes prepared with answers and plans.
Are you envisaging an online pre-Xmas gathering for partners and customers (how very post-COVID) but are not sure how to sell the idea internally? Has your agency already prepared a plan and a mini business case for your boss? They seem to be one step ahead of you!
Tangible business impact with KPIs
Ultimately, every agency needs to deliver (or ideally over deliver) against an agreed plan and KPIs. Transparency rules when it comes to contracts, as I explain here. We normally recommend a mix of quantitative and qualitative targets, such as a percentage of Share of Voice against competitors, coverage impact score, or coverage sentiment.
The effectiveness of PR however should also be assessed in terms of the strategic value it brings to the business. Is your PR agency helping you identify and demonstrate your unique differences? Has it provided strategic counsel on which target audiences you need to prioritise to keep your communication focused?
These are the strategic inputs that will empower your business to use its time and resources efficiently, engage with your target audiences more effectively, and ultimately drive business growth.
Establish whether your PR agency is doing a good job with our 9-point check list
1Deliverables contract: Provides a clearly defined Scope of Work with deliverables that are continuously monitored
2Cultural alignment: Seamlessly aligns with your internal processes
3Collaboration tools: Uses collaboration tools and platforms to increase efficiencies
4Invests in you: Commits time and resource to truly understand your products/services and market proposition
5Communication strategy: Asks pertinent questions about your comms strategy and messaging, such as personas, positioning statements…
6Exceeds expectations: Proactively suggests activities to elevate your comms activity
7Forward thinking: Predicts your next question and comes prepared with answers
8Performance assured: Delivers against KPIs
9Outcome focused: Provides strategic counsel that generates tangible business outcomes