If part of your 2016 B2B PR planning is to invest in a top-notch PR firm, don’t go ahead without incorporating these eight key questions into your decision-making criteria.
Can you provide some recent, relevant case histories? Ideally an agency’s selection isn’t based solely on category experience, but it’s an easy way to make a first cut. In the best case each firm under consideration has demonstrable client history, and some will rise to the top based on fresh category experience well matched to future opportunities.
Who will be our day-to-day contact? An agency should have determined this before they ever meet with a potential PR partner, and obviously that person should be in the room. The account lead at the right agency will have a combination of pertinent experience, communications skills and good chemistry with the client team.
Can we speak with some of your current clients? References are often important, but up-to-date ones will give you the most current picture of what a working relationship would look like.
Where would our business fit in your account roster? Here you are trying to determine if you are the “big fish in the small pond” or the other way around. Getting a sense of the other accounts handled by the agency will help determine if the level of service will meet your needs.
Can you offer an example of a creative strategy? It’s often a good idea to let the agency demonstrate their smarts on a real-world project. This insight into their thinking provides a glimpse of how creative they are, which is typically the spark that takes a ho-hum idea to the next level.
Please describe your digital and social capabilities. No PR program would be complete without these capabilities, but make sure that the experience isn’t limited to social posting by an intern. Look for examples of work that demonstrate a grasp of strategy and thought leadership where relevant.
How do you calculate ROI for PR services? Measurement is a cornerstone of all PR decision-making and determining that a firm’s results calculus and reporting style fits with your own is critical.
How do you charge for services? Entering into a PR relationship is a major undertaking for any company, so an early step is establishing the budget and whether the partnership is based on fee or an hourly rate. If the contract is fee-based, it’s also important to establish the length of the contract and how it is renewed.
Bonus question. Always ask the firm what they would need from you to make the relationship work best. The most productive PR partnerships function less like client/vendor relationships and more like extensions of the same department. This simple question can help ensure that the latter is the case.