Choosing the Right Marketing/Public Relations Agency

We are looking for a new public relations agency in 2011.  What should we consider when conducting the search?

By Jim Sweeney

At the end of the day, every organization wants the same thing from its agency: results. Of course every agency will tell you they deliver results.

So what are the tangibles and intangibles that assure you are working with a product marketing and public relations firm that will deliver the results you want?

1. Experience, which also equals endurance. To last more than a few years in the highly competitive world of agency marketing, you need to consistently deliver results. But what type of experience do you look for? Simply put, the type that is most relevant for your organization.

Does the agency have experience in your industry? Does it possess relevant market experience? Does it know your customers and retailers and vendors and third-party influentials? Does it have experience developing and implementing the types of strategies and tactics you need to succeed – both traditional and digital? Can it offer proof – show you case studies and work samples and offer testimonials and references? Is the agency willing to work with you and other agencies – setting aside egos and profit motives?

Experience isn’t everything, but it definitely matters.

2. Edge, which also equals X-factor. Every agency likely possesses some magic formula – a unique brand skill – that sets it apart from its competitors. Not hyperbole or idioms or acronyms, but real, tangible skills. What’s the edge you are looking for, and does the agency you are talking to possess it?

Does the agency possess unique knowledge of your industry that goes way beyond general industry experience? Does the agency have a reputation for working fast or hard or both? Does the agency have a special ability to find and process information that gives your organization an edge? Does the agency have mad creative skills and/or exceptional strategic planning skills?

Can they offer offline and online services and integrate them to complement each other?

Assuming the agencies you like have the right experience, their unique edge should help you to identify frontrunners.

3. Tenacity, which also equals persistence. Marketing is not for the meek of heart. Does the agency possess the desire and ability and willingness to fight the good fight until it is over? At the first sign of a problem, do they identify alternate solutions or look for the back door?

Does the agency go the extra mile… regardless of whether it is requested? Does the agency push through the standard resistance in order to achieve the desired goals? Do they routinely monitor and measure and analyze results and make necessary adjustments? Does the agency take pride in its work and results – do they own it – before you even review and assess it?

Remember, winners never quit.

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