Before I started the Idea Grove, I was a senior corporate communications executive for billion-dollar companies. I’ve led public relations campaigns of all sizes and budgets, and I know how important it is to select the right PR firm during the agency review process.
That’s why I’ve created a simple assessment tool to help companies make the right decision -- and avoid common mistakes.
From my experience, the most common mistake is to fall for a slick agency presentation without fully understanding one or more of the following: (1) the agency’s specific qualifications; (2) how the agency will prioritize the company relative to other clients; (3) how the agency will charge for its services; (4) whether the agency will be a good personality fit.
Many PR firms are downright spectacular during the agency review process, but just mediocre once they’re a few months into the engagement. This is because large firms, in particular, win new clients through the sales efforts of senior executives -- but then make a junior staffer the primary contact on the account.
With that in mind, I recommend that corporate communicators conducting agency reviews ask themselves the following 25 questions –- comparing PR firms across the categories of Compatibility, Specialization, Integration and Cost -- before making a decision:
Agency Culture & Compatibility – Will the Agency Be a Good Partner? 1. Do the personalities of the agency’s team members seem like good fit for my company? 2. Do the firm’s team members communicate freely and easily with my company’s employees in meetings? 3. When asked their opinion, do members of the agency seem to say what they really think – not just what I want to hear? 4. Do the agency’s recommended strategies and initiatives appear to be honest and ethical? 5. If the firm serves other companies in my industry, are they are forthcoming in discussing any possible conflicts of interest? 6. Does my gut tells me the agency is promising what it can actually deliver and is not exaggerating simply to get my business?
Technology PR Qualifications – Can the Agency Do the Work? 7. During our discussions, has the agency demonstrated a solid understanding of my particular technology industry? 8. During our discussions, does the agency listen carefully to my objectives and concerns, tailoring its recommendations accordingly? 9. Has the agency provided client references that are relevant and specific to the job at hand and to the team members doing the work? 10. Is the agency team quick on its feet in coming up with creative ideas for addressing my company’s challenges? 11. Does the agency rely on data and provide full transparency into its PR tactics? 12. Does the agency team seem passionate about technology and tech PR? 13. Can the agency demonstrate established relationships with technology, vertical and business tech reporters and provide journalistic references?
Integrated Marketing Capabilities – Can the Agency Do More than PR? 14. Does the agency team address my PR goals in the context of my company’s larger marketing objectives? 15. Can the agency show examples of integrated campaigns encompassing PR, social media, content, creative, and digital marketing? 16. Does the agency leadership have experience working with sales as well as marketing? 17. Does the agency seem to operate fluidly across functions and not appear to be siloed? 18. Is the agency team balanced across PR, content, creative and digital capabilities?
Cost Structure & Capacity to Scale – Will I Get My Money’s Worth? 19. In creating a proposal, does the agency ask detailed questions to truly understand my priorities and needs – rather than asking, “What’s your budget?” and delivering a plan that absorbs all available dollars? 20. Is the agency straightforward and specific in discussing program scope, hourly rates, statements of work, and other contract details? 21. If the agency bills by the hour, does it openly share its blended rate or the specific billing rates of its individual employees? 22. Do the agency's billing rates seem reasonable compared to similar firms? 23. Do the agency’s client references vouch for the agency’s flexibility and fairness in billing? 24. As my needs grow, does the agency have the capacity to scale with me, and are they willing to bring in additional resources as I may need them? 25. Does the agency plan ahead and anticipate factors that might impact cost or scale and notify me of the impact those changes may have on my budget and results?
I've organized this interactive quiz as an easy and engaging way for you to measure the performance of you potential agencies. Gather your results and compare each firm's score to determine which agency is the right fit for your business. Take the assessment here.
Trust expert Scott Baradell is CEO and founder of Idea Grove. Idea Grove helps its clients secure trust at scale through its unique Grow With TRUST approach. Scott is an established authority on trust and editor of the online publication Trust Signals, as well as author of the upcoming book Trust Signals: Brand Building in a Post-Truth World. Idea Grove celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020, earning honors including the 2020 Pegasus Award for Small Agency of the Year, being named a Top 200 B2B service provider by Clutch, and ranking in the top 25 tech agencies in the U.S. by O'Dwyer's. Scott has an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America and speaks on PR and marketing topics at industry events nationwide.