Choosing a B2B PR agency can be a daunting task. How do you know if it’s a good fit for your company? You want a long-term relationship with this agency. Plus, it can be a major investment of your time and money. You need to make sure that it works before you sign that dotted line. How is that even possible?
Not to worry. We've got you covered with key pointers to ensure you pick the right agency.
10 Things to Do Before Hiring a B2B PR Agency
1. Define What You Want From Your PR Agency
If you want a PR agency that will fit your needs, specify what your needs are. Clearly define your goals. What do you want to accomplish with your B2B PR? Whether it’s an increase in leads, B2B thought leadership, or effective press coverage, it’s important to know what you want before you meet with potential agencies.
Consider three important questions that need to be addressed off the bat:
- What are your expectations?
- When can you expect the agency to deliver results?
- What is the expertise of the agency -- some are skilled at crafting content and garnering press mentions, while others are pros at managing crisis situations.
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2. Find Out How Well the Agency Understands Your Company and Business
This is fundamental to the future relationship between your company and the agency you choose. This agency will be representing you to the public and media. It’s imperative that the agency understands how your company works, the issues involved, and what industry channels and events would benefit your product or service.
Let’s face it -- with a little research some of this information is easily accessible. Any agency worth your time will come with the public information already locked down. It shows a basic interest in understanding your perspective.
You can also ask for a list of similar clients that the agency has worked for and the results achieved. Look for clients with a similar company background and culture as your own. This will give you an idea of how comfortable they already are with your market.
Top B2B agencies have done their homework on your business and on your competition and are well poised to offer you expert PR advice.
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3. Determine Your Budget
How much money do you want to spend on your PR? While this is a relatively simple question, don’t overlook its importance. Hammer out all the details of your budget, including base retainer, expenses, averages, and incidentals.
Clearly articulate your budget to potential agencies. Outline the process if the agency were to go over budget. Should they submit overages for written approval, or will the process be more flexible?
4. Make Sure There’s Chemistry
Don’t get me wrong -- it’s important that they can do the job and do it well. It’s equally important though that you have a good rapport with them. Make sure you really like them, are excited to work with them, and that it’s easy to talk to them about your needs.
This basic chemistry will be invaluable to you down the road. You want to feel as if they’re an extension of your team -- not just a cold, brick-and-mortar agency.
5. Get a Flexible Agency
You don’t want a rubber stamp. You want an agency who's flexible and diplomatic. You don’t want to hire a “Yes” person who doesn’t take the time to tell you when you’re wrong. Yet, at the same time, you don’t want someone who is so inflexible that they won’t bend to adjust to your style and needs. It’s a necessary balance to reach.
6. Do Research on Your Competitors
Keep on top of your competitors with tools like Google Alerts or Mention. Determine what parts of their PR campaigns are effective and how you might emulate, or better yet, improve on them. Then, observe whether the PR agency addresses these in their presentation. This will give you an idea of what they know about your space, and whether they’ve done their homework.
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7. Determine Their Headquarters Location...and if it matters
In today’s virtual world, location is much less important than it might have been say 10 years ago. Determine if you truly need someone physically nearby. You obviously widen the talent pool when you look further afield.
8. Ask For the Team You Will Be Working With
When it comes to a pitch meeting, many agencies bring out the big guns to impress you, but then assign another team that you will work with on a continuing basis. You want to see who you will work with from the get-go. Then, find out who of that team will work you the most, and request that this person does the bulk of the presentation.
9. Understand Your Contract
Once you have decided on a PR agency, make sure you thoroughly understand the contract, including key terms. If possible, go over it with a lawyer. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t hesitate to red-line it and negotiate for terms that will make you happier.
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10. Determine Areas of Responsibility and Key Deliverables
You don’t want there to be any surprises. At the same time, you don’t want the agency to overload you with work. Clearly spell out duties and responsibilities. Be clear on deliverables -- what are the agency’s processes? How do you know what’s being accomplished?
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Some Things to Keep in Mind…
- Make sure you have chemistry with the PR agency.
- Know what your PR goals are before you meet with a potential agency.
- Look for an agency who is flexible, and understands your company.
- Set out the agency’s responsibilities and key deliverables, and understand your contract before you sign.
Not all PR agencies are created equal -- each has individual skills and talents that bring different potential for your company. In the end, it’s important to find a B2B PR agency that fits your specific needs, and will be a good partnership for years to come.