In the course of running your business you may eventually conclude that it is best to focus on your core competencies, offloading the marketing and public relations duties to an outside firm. But where do you start? There are thousands of marketing and PR agencies, many of which might appear to be a good fit for your company. What follows are some important questions to ask yourself and potential vendors throughout the process as you seek out a competent, effective marketing and PR firm that suits your specific needs.
Do they speak our language?
Marketing and public relations firms come in all shapes and sizes, from gargantuan behemoths involved in a wide variety of industries, to specialized boutiques that may only focus on a single industry. Regardless of the size of your marketing partner, you’ll want to make sure they understand at least the rudiments of what it is your company does, in other words “speak your language.”
Every industry has its own specialized vocabulary. If you constantly find you need to explain the fundamentals of your business to a potential marketing and PR partner, you may want to reconsider. Of course, every marketing company will need some time to get up to speed on the specifics of your business, but if that learning curve is looking particularly steep, you may want to think about how much time you have available to educate a media company on what it is you do.
Are they organized and responsive?
As the client, it should not be your job to follow up with your marketing and PR agency on the status of different initiatives. In your quest to find the marketing & PR agency that’s right for you, in all likelihood you will reach out to a number of different companies. Pay close attention to how long it takes them to get back to you, and the sorts of questions they ask (if any) when they follow up.
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Are they detail-oriented?
After your search has uncovered some potential candidates, you may begin requesting proposals. Pay attention: are the proposals one-size-fits-all presentations that highlight the agency’s capabilities and services? Or do they actually dive into the specifics of what the agency propose to do for you and your projects? This is a key distinction, as a customized, detailed proposal reflects a keen attention-to-detail that will continue to serve you well if you decide to work with this company.
What’s their process like?
A company’s process—the means by which it gets things done for itself and for its clients—speaks volumes about what sort of company they are. Marketing and PR firms with great processes in place can effectively get things done for their clients because they know who is supposed to be doing what, and in what order. A strong process has the timelines for accomplishing specific tasks built into its DNA, has dedicated client point people, and tends to result in successful outcomes. Weak or ad-hoc processes, on the other hand, can result in disorganization, cost overruns, and unsatisfied clients.
By asking these few important questions of yourself and potential marketing and communications partners, you’ll have gone a long way towards narrowing the field of potential partners. After looking over their work samples and service offerings, taking a closer look at their proposals, it’s time to make a selection: choose wisely—it will have a formidable impact on how whether your marketing and PR initiatives are carried out according to plan or whether they fall short.
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