This is the third post in a three-part series: 5 Clues that You Are Ready to Hire a PR Agency, 5 Criteria for Hiring a PR Agency and 5 ways to Maximize Your PR Agency Investment. Can I get a high five?
Congratulations! You’ve hired a PR agency! Wait a second…you don’t look so good. Yes, I know it is a big commitment. Yes, I know you have a lot on the line. Don’t go getting cold feet now. This is an exciting time!
1. Trust. Remember, you hired the agency because you NEED help. You selected your PR firm, because you you know they’ve got what it takes to move your company forward and make you look like a rock star to the rest of your executive team. Relax, and trust your decision. Start by building your client/agency relationship on trust, and most likely you will have a long, rewarding partnership. Here’s what my friend Roy Reid has to say about building outrageous trust.
2. Commit. At Clairemont, we pride ourselves on not needing a lot of hand-holding from our clients so that we truly can provide meaningful results and make our clients feel like a huge weight has been lifted from them. We’re able to do just that when our clients take the time at the beginning of the relationship to allow us to go through an account set-up process that identifies big things such as mutually agreeable objectives and deliverables down to seemingly small things like setting up shared folders to send and receive large files to each other. Our best clients also provide background information to help facilitate a brand immersion and schedule regular team check-in calls. While smart agencies understand the importance of striking the balance of working both collaboratively with and independently from you, your agency account team will require information and answers from you. A commitment to being responsive is also key.
3. Listen. Once your agency is up-to-spend and indoctrinated in your company culture, listen to what they have to say. You most likely hired the PR firm for the experience and expertise of its team members. Realize that you now have a resource that likely consists of people of different generations and backgrounds — you’ve gained direct access to new perspectives that might allow you to see how your customers, employees, stakeholders and influencers see your brand. Additionally, our role as public relations counselors is to guide our clients and provide recommendations. That should at least sometimes include ideas you have never considered.
4. Challenge (and be challenged). This is a two-way street. The most productive client/PR agency relationships challenge each other to see things in different ways, to come up with new ideas and to find innovative ways to solve a problem. Personally, I love nothing more than to get a client call that starts with, “I’ve got a real challenge for you.” Yes, that’s what makes our jobs fun! And to the point above, the best agencies are even challenging their clients to join them in redefining what PR is as we move from talkers to makers, as my friend and fellow CAPRSA executive committee member, Martin Waxman, says.
5. Evaluate. Evaluation should be an ongoing process that’s conducted in formal and informal ways. I’ve already mentioned establishing regular check-ins and that’s a great way to make sure everything is going as planned on a weekly or monthly basis. We also recommend quarterly meetings to review objectives to ensure that goals are being met. Sometimes things in your company, industry or the economy change which could require your PR firm to need to change directions. By evaluating your program on a regular basis, together you can maximize results.
These are just five of many things you can do to make sure you are getting the most out of your client/PR agency relationship. For those of you (both clients and agency folks) in successful partnerships, what tops your list?