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New to the job? Need an agency to help you with a PR campaign? Where do you start?

If it seems a daunting task, pause for thought. A marketing & PR agency is simply a team of professionals to help you do a better job. They’re in business to help people like you!

Set out with the right mind-set. The aim is to foster a good relationship with your communications agency so that they can help you to grow and develop your business. For the Marketing and PR agency team to get the right messages across to your target audience, they’ll ideally become your partners, not your adversaries. It’s a business ‘marriage’, so give and take and mutual respect have their place. Thinking win-win is the best place to start.

The type and size of marketing and PR agency you’ll end up choosing depends on what help you’re looking for and the marketing mix you’re working with. Some marketing and PR agencies and consultancies are ‘full service’, offering a full range of marketing services; others will specialise in a single discipline. In larger companies there may already be a roster of selected agencies that your company works with, which have been pre-selected.

If there’s no roster in place, you’re likely to have to do your own leg-work and draw up a shortlist of potential agencies. And I do mean short. Don’t try and look at 20. Look at 6, perhaps selecting three to pitch or quote for your project. You can ask for details in advance, invite them in to see you and if you can, visit them to see what kind of outfit they are. It’s just like buying a car. Don’t buy the first one you see. Take your time and do your homework. See a few, then make your decision.

People Matter

Ideally, you’re looking for good rapport. It’s important to get on with the people you’re working with and feel you can trust them, especially if you’ve several marketing projects in mind. Find out who will actually be working on your project. Do they have any experience or if not, are they managed by someone who has? Ask to meet them too. Many a job has been let down by juniors who simple don’t know better. It’s not their fault but it can cost you dearly if things go awry.

Decide whether experience in your market place is important or whether you want a fresh perspective. Few agencies will work with competing companies at the same time.

A Clear Brief

A job-well-done starts with a good marketing, pr or campaign brief. Write the brief down and make sure you have internal sign off before you brief the agency.

Start with your objectives

Where are you now, what do you want to achieve and what’s the background to your brief? Make sure you have all the relevant information on hand to share with the agency.
Agree what you will do (client-side) to help the agency do their job efficiently – whether it’s providing a logo or organising access to a factory for PR photographs. Be clear about who does what.


How will you evaluate what the marketing agency is doing for you?

Do you get regular feedback? Do you hold regular reviews to discuss your work? Sadly I have heard too many clients say “I don’t know what the agency is doing for me”. Don’t let this be you. Talk regularly, e-mail, meet up at least once a month and keep them in the loop. Involve them where it might be useful – in sales meetings, conferences, range reviews – many will welcome the opportunity to get up close and hear more about your market place.

Avoiding the pitfalls

  1. Clear communication is paramount
  2. Good relationships take time to develop and many disagreements are the result of simple misunderstandings
  3. A clear, well thought through brief takes time to write and respond to
  4. Pay attention to detail
  5. Leave room for the agency team to do what they’re good at, what you’re paying them to do. That doesn’t mean giving them carte blanche to do anything but do trust them enough to listen carefully to their views

Good luck!

This blog post was adapted from an article originally written by Helen Willson for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Helen Willson

Helen Willson is a Marketing & PR Consultant and Business Adviser working with private & public sector organisations and businesses from SME's to large global corporates, across a range of different sectors and industries, supporting them to create successful strategies, raise their profile, attract new customers and win awards.

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