12 questions to ask your new PR agency

Written by the Editorial Team

Getting people, the people that matter to you that is, talking about your business and ensuring you are seen in the right place and at the right time invariably involves appointing a PR professional or agency. Your agency will then ensure that your organisation is being talked about in the right way.

What your agency knows is more important than who they know and working with an agency who understands your business and the business of PR itself, will enable you to translate your publicity and communications efforts into a competitve advantage. But what information do you need before you appoint a PR agency?

Here are 12 key questions you should consider asking your prospective PR agency:

1 Who will work and lead on our account? What is their experience?

To sell themselves as the agency of choice for your business, PR firms will typically send their best people to the meeting. They are the face of the business and the ones that clients buy into, but they’re not necessarily the people who will work on your account.

All too often, agencies win the account and then hand it to the office juniors who have little or no experience. So make sure you know precisely who will work on your account and ask to meet with them so that you can determine for yourself if they really are the best person to manage your organisation’s reputation.

2 How much time will be dedicated to working on our account?

The amount of time dedicated to working on your account will be entirely dependent on the requirements of your campaign. It is important for you to understand the minimum time that will be allocated by your agency each month to focus on delivering your campaign.

3 How much input will there be from our side to help make the relationship work?

It is naive to assume that appointing a PR agency will mean that you can simply leave your agency to their own devices and wait for them to report back when the project is finished.

Like any relationship, two-way interaction is essential and you need to find out what level of commitment – such as being available for media interviews or available to sign off a piece of work as and when required – will be needed from your side, and make sure that you are in a position to do what is needed.

4 How much input will we have in the running of our campaign?

Whilst you entrust your agency to create, develop and implement your PR campaign, you should also be prepared to contribute ideas of your own and support your agency during the management process of your campaign. PR’s are great at what they do but having that ongoing support and affirmation from clients is critical to the overall success of your campaign.

5 How will we know if our campaign is working the way it should and is on target for achieving its stated objectives?

You can expect your agency to implement a series of key performance metrics which will determine the progress being made with your campaign. Targets will be set and regular updates on how well the campaign is performing against the agreed targets will be communicated to you on a frequent basis.

6 How often we will receive updates on all activity and results to date?

Updates should be available to you as and when you require them, but you should expect a brief update by the close of play every Friday followed by a more comprehensive report at the end of each month. This report will provide a detailed look at what activity and results have been achieved in the month gone by and what activity has been planned for the month ahead.

7 How will you measure the results of our campaign?

Results can be measured in two ways: tangible and intangible measurements. For example, tangible targets could include generating press coverage in X number of media, increased social engagement levels of X% across Twitter and Facebook, increases in web traffic, requests for information, or delivering the campaign on time and on budget.

Non-tangibles targets could include enhanced corporate reputation, or improved tonal bias in all media coverage of your organisation. It may even be something as simple – yet incredibly effective – as forging a stronger working relationship with your agency that led to a greater understanding of your business which by default, has stimulated a series of new ideas for future PR campaigns.

8 What results have you achieved for past clients? PR people are brilliant talkers, after all that is what we do for a living! But you need to ensure they can walk the talk, too. Ask for examples of work they have done for other clients and decide for yourself if you think they can replicate this success in helping your organisation to achieve its communication objectives.

9 What makes you the best agency for us to work with, what stands you apart from other agencies?

Be prepared for a moment of self adulation here!! We are all in the business of selling and it is important for you to work with an agency who you feel understands your mission and vision, shares your values and has the capability to integrate all of these elements into your PR activity.

10 Will we be locked into a long-term contract, will we have a get-out option?

When appointing a new PR agency you do so with a hope and expectation that they will deliver on their promises for you. But sometimes, things just don’t work out for whatever reason and that’s why it is important that you understand how to terminate a contract.

It is advisable to see how things progress for at least three months and then review all activity to date – three months gives both you and your agency enough time to be up and running to a point where you can gauge whether the relationship is working or not. If your agency is not delivering after that 90 day period, then you should consider seeking an alternative PR provider.

11 How do you charge – project fee, retainer, billable hours?

Many PR agencies will offer their clients a choice of how they would prefer to pay. For some clients, knowing precisely how much they will be invoiced each month is important so that they can set their budgets accordingly – the PR agency will agree a fixed monthly retainer with you.

For others, costs will be calculated depending on what services were utilised over a given time period, such as costs for individual press releases, time spent liaising with the media, research undertaken to produce white papers, or time taken to edit videos, for example.

12 What are your plans for your business, where do you see your business over the next 12 months?

If your business is a forward-thinking organisation with ambitious plans for the future, it is important that the PR agency you appoint to represent you shares similar ambitions for their own business. PR agency’s both large and small will have a notion of how they see their business developing over the coming year or two, and if they are equally ambitious they will value your business that much more – your success will mean their success, which makes for a winning partnership!