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15 Questions that Help You Pick the Right Marcom or PR Services Agency

Posted on Wed, Jul 13, 2016

PR Services Agency Meets with ClientOur last blog post listed questions that an agency should ask a prospective client. This one will
focus on the opposite: what a company hiring a marcom or PR services agency should ask the
agencies they consider.

 Without further ado, here are the important questions to ask, and why you should ask: 

Questions to Ask

Why Ask

1. Do you have any conflicts of interest through work for any of our competitors?


Most companies are very sensitive about the possibility of confidential information seeping out to competitors. Most agencies sign a non-disclosure agreement along with a contract with a prospective client, and also build a “Chinese wall” between divisions serving competitors. However, if a conflict of interest would be a problem for you, you need to find out up front how the agency will handle this situation.

2. Who will be working on our account if we hire you?


Too many times, agencies send a team of senior agency staff to sell to you, but after you sign a contract with them you never see those senior folks again. Asking to meet the staff who will actually work on your account prevents a “bait & switch.”

3. Could you provide contact information for two or three of your clients so we can ask them for references?

No matter how confident you are in your judgment of the agencies you consider, it can’t hurt to speak to clients the agency has served. Sure, the agency will refer you to the clients they think will give you a glowing report, but if you ask the right questions, you may discover details you didn’t know before, both positive and negative. Don’t skip this step!

4. What kinds of clients have you had that have faced challenges similar to ours, and how did you help them?

This question helps you focus in on 1) how well the agency listened and understood what you've told them so far, and 2) whether the agency’s staff has the right kind of experience to help you.

5. How will you measure the results of the work you do for us? 

You must make it clear that you’ll look for evidence of performance and ROI from the agency’s work. Many different tools can now provide analytics about marketing efforts. In PR, the measurements should be applicable to meeting your business and communications goals. The number of media placements or the cost of advertising if you had bought the equivalent amount of space or broadcast time are no longer considered relevant measurements, for many reasons. 

6. Can you give us some case studies that include stats on measured results from other work you’ve done?

This is a further step in answering Question 5. It will also show you the actual results of some work the agency has done.

7. How do you charge for your work and what are the hourly billing rates that your charges are based on? What's the limit on the amount of time we will receive for the fee we pay you?

You obviously don’t want to be surprised when the agency’s bills start arriving! You can also compare the methods and basis for charging of all the agencies you’re considering.

8. What is included in your fees and what is not?

Same answer as Question 7 above.

9. What is the annual revenue you receive from your largest PR client? What is the annual revenue from your smallest PR client?

You don’t want to be the smallest client the agency has, because your business may not have much importance to the agency. There may also be some danger in being the biggest client the agency has. That might indicate a lack of experience handling client campaigns with as wide a scope as yours will be.

10. Do you think our budget is appropriate to meet our goals?

The agency will certainly ask this what your budget is. You should be honest about this. But if you hear from more than one agency that your budget isn’t adequate, either your budget really isn’t adequate, or those agencies are too expensive for you. You can also ask in a different way: what can you accomplish for our budget?.

11. Why do you think you’re a good fit for us?

The answer to this should shed more light on the agency’s experience, size and practice areas.

12. What experience do you have in our industry, and doing similar work?


An agency with a decent amount of experience in your industry, doing similar work for other clients, will be able to get up to speed more quickly than an agency without the experience. You don’t want to have the agency's staff using up a significant portion of your fees educating themselves! 

13. What is your process for working with clients, including how you communicate with and advise clients? What kind of reports will we get on your activities and how often?

The answer will give you a preview of how the agency works, how organized the agency staff is, and how much contact you’ll have with staff that can provide counsel to your company.

14. What will you do if you don’t agree with what we want you to do?

Your PR agency should be providing you with counselling on strategy, tactics, messaging and more. You should be open to hearing the agency’s viewpoint even if it differs from yours. You should welcome discussion and questioning of your views and plans, not passive acquiescence to your orders.  If the answer you get to this question is, "We'll do whatever you want us to do," without indicating the need for a healthy discussion, you may want to think twice before hiring that agency.

15. What kind of results do you think we could expect from the work you’d be doing? For example, which types of media do you think will be interested in our company/products?

This question is important to ask because what the agency considers good results and what you are expecting may be different. It’s possible that your expectations are too high, and a good, honest agency will tell you if they feel that is the case. Be wary of agencies that promise the moon, the stars, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and interviews on the Today Show! Some agency executives are unscrupulous, unfortunately, and will say whatever they think you want to hear. You deserve an honest, transparent agency.

By Lucy Siegel, Bridge Global Strategies, a Didit Company

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How to Pick a PR Agency


Tags: choosing a PR agency, PR agency search, choosing a PR firm

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