Outsourcing PR and other marketing services to a specialist agency is usually a smart move. If you select the right agency they will have the know-how and the media contacts to make much more of an impact than an in-house team can.
But it’s vitally important to choose the right agency to be your partner. There are some great agencies out there but we do hear horror stories from clients who have been burned in the past by agencies who promise the world but then fail to deliver. There are few barriers to entry in Agency Land so unfortunately you do get some dodgy operators setting up shop to make a few quid. So how do you tell which agencies are good, which are bad and which are downright ugly?
There are several ways you can verify an agency before you decide to work with them. Most importantly you will want to know how long they’ve been around and what sort of work they have done? Most agencies have case studies on their websites. Take a close look at these and see if the results match up to your expectations. Would similar results have a business impact for you? How old are the case studies? Are the clients featured still working with the agency?
It’s also important to get a feel for the people who run the agency and to get a handle on what their background is. How long have they been doing this and what is their track record? If you do decide to partner up with the agency who will be working on your account? Will it be the senior people or will you be passed into the hands of a junior?
One question which many prospective clients fail to consider is, what awards has the agency won? Winning respected industry awards can be viewed as a sound marker of quality. It proves that the agency has been proud enough of their work to put it forward for scrutiny by their industry peers. If they have won the award then those peers have judged the work as amongst the very best against strict criteria compared to work from other agencies. For this reason, winning respected awards is a very reliable marker of quality and one which is often overlooked.
Confident agencies win awards. Having enough faith and pride in their work to put it forward for the scrutiny of judges isn’t easy. It tends to be something only the best agencies will even seriously consider. For that work to then be selected as an award winner proves that the agency deserves to be taken seriously in any selection process.
You will still need to satisfy yourself that they are a good match for your company. If they specialise in e-commerce and digital PR, as Motive does, then does that fit with what you need? Not all businesses trade online even today so not everyone will benefit from a campaign which raises their profile on the web and boosts their ranking in search. Make sure the agency is right for you. If you want to publicise a bar or restaurant opening then you will want to hire a more traditional PR agency for example. But if all the other boxes are ticked and you’re trying to decide between agencies then go for the one with the packed trophy cabinet.
One word of caution though. Not all awards are worthy of your respect. There’s a bunch of awards out there which fall into the category of vanity gongs. In other words, anyone can buy one. Any agency crowing about winning one of these awards should be viewed with caution. Anyone can walk into a trophy shop and buy an award off the shelf. These gongs don’t mean a great deal.
You should look not just at how many awards the agency has won but also consider what the awards are and who they are from. Awards from industry bodies such as the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) and the PRCA (Public Relations and Communications Association) are widely respected in the PR sector and can be viewed with confidence. There are other agency awards which we also rate highly. If in any doubt about the veracity of an award try clicking through and seeing who the other winners are. If it’s a vanity gong you’ll likely see hundreds if not thousands of winners listed. All of whom will have paid a small fee to bill themselves as award winners. Don’t be fooled.