There was a very good post up on SpinSucks a few days ago called Seven Reasons You’re Not Ready to Hire a PR Firm. Many clients have hired me in my career and I’ve also hired a few PR agencies. When a relationship ends between a client and agency there are many different reasons – liquidity event, a changing of the guard, or just the natural evolution of a relationship. But when the relationship ends quickly – say in the first year – more than a few times it was because the client wasn’t ready to work with an agency. I agree with all the points that the post makes and have added two more reasons why a company may not be ready to hire an agency.
Not understanding the level of focus and hard work required. Agencies do their best work when clients understand the effort required for a PR program and have assigned someone with the time, responsibility and power to fully enable the agency. This doesn’t necessarily mean a person has been devoted full-time to working with the agency, although that’s great when it happens. But if the person charged with the agency relationship has dozens of other responsibilities or isn’t going to be empowered by top management to make the relationship a priority that situation needs to be fixed before moving forward.
Having an agency do “turnkey” PR with little or no input may sound good but it’s not going to result in a good program. Successful programs need to have a constant flow of information between the client and the agency.
Top management isn’t a part of the process. The day-to-day contact may have worked successfully with dozens of agencies. Their boss may have as well. But if the top executives – the C level folks – don’t buy into the need for an agency, you’re going to eventually be swimming upstream. If the situation is “s/he needs to be convinced” that is also risky. If that is the case make sure that there is a clear set of goals for the agency that will “convince” the C-level of the value of the relationship. Top management also needs to be willing to meet with the agency to provide insight and collaborate. Once a quarter is best although for larger companies it may be one or twice a year.
This original list and my additions are not meant to turn people away from working with agencies but to generate important discussions within companies as they look to spend precious dollars investing in PR. Agencies can also use it to evaluate their prospects.
What would you add to the list?