How do you know if an agency is right for you? Here are the signs to look out for!
Flexibility is key in any relationship
How do you get the media to write about you regularly when business life is so unpredictable, and you don’t always have something to shout about? This is where a good PR agency comes in – one that can identify your unique stories even if you can’t see them for yourself.
It’s a PR agency’s job to be flexible and use some tried, tested and trusted tactics to keep you in the media even if you’re not, for example, launching a product or announcing investment. These tactics can range from providing expert commentary on the latest news affecting your industry, creating unique insights using your internal data, developing an authority voice via thought leadership, or running a creative campaign.
Flexibility is important when talking about contract length too – some less transparent agencies may sign you up for 12 months as standard, but this might not fit your needs nor be financially viable if you’re a young business. If so, discuss agreeing on a six-month contract with a break clause after three to give you more security. Three months gives a well-respected agency enough time to show you what they can do – and their willingness to commit to a break clause shows they understand and respect your business’ stance.
Are they experienced?
It is important you look for an agency that has a proven track record in your sector. Take a good look at their website and look for case studies that demonstrate proficiency in your industry and select your shortlist from there.
Large agencies will often attract big brand names, boutique agencies are often more affordable, flexible, and tend to operate in more specialist areas.
A good balance can usually be a specialist team within a larger agency as they will have specialist experience but can quickly call upon the wider agency departments when required.
Do they understand you?
Your prospective agency will likely know how you operate or what it is you do, but do they know why you do it?
An agency will, in many ways, hold the key to how you and your business are perceived by the public, other businesses, and potential investors. Therefore, your perfect partner will not just understand what your company does on a basic level but will be able to clearly communicate this to all audiences, humanising your brand, as a true extension of your business.
To do this effectively and truly engage potential customers and investors, they need to understand ‘why’. This insight is crucial as it will inform all your communications and clearly differentiate you from your competition.
What’s their success rate?
Good agencies will have won industry awards. In the UK, PR Week, SABRE, CIPR, PRCA, Cannes Lions and PR Moment awards are great accolades for any agency to have in their trophy cabinet.
Have any individuals within the agency been personally recognised in the industry? PR Week’s ’30 under 30’ list is a good indication of the best young PR talent in the country, and it stands to reason that the best companies attract the best talent.
Lastly, have they won an ‘Employer of the Year’ award or appeared in ‘The Sunday Times Best Places to work’ list? If so they’ll likely have more fulfilled and motivated staff, which, as everyone knows, make more effective teams with an impressive output.
Honesty and transparency from the start
Any solid relationship is built on transparency as one of the most important attributes to look for in your agency. Open and honest dialogue from the onset is key – as part of this, they should be clear on what they will do for you and you should be clear on where you expect from them.
Establish what success looks like to you and then ask them to set measurable goals that you’re both happy with. For example, if you want high levels of coverage then ask them to commit to a certain number of pieces a month (KPIs), or if you want to drive downloads of an app, ask them how they can deliver this through specific coverage or PR tactics.
While PR is notoriously difficult to measure, a good agency will be able to manage your expectations to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line. Be wary of those that don’t commit to anything, but also be wary of hiring a team of yes men or women. The best agencies will under promise and over deliver, and will have developed innovative approaches to give you a successful return on your investment.
If you’re interested in hearing more about PR then you can download our E-book on PR tips for Start-up Businesses or drop us a line.