5 questions you should answer before working with a PR agency

In a world where marketing, advertising and PR (public relations) agencies go head-to-head for the integrated business of large and small clients, there are players that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

One thing that consistently separates these agencies from the others, and what often gets lost in the business exchange, is the foundational knowledge that the client-agency relationship is in fact that—a relationship. There is a courting period, a honeymoon phase, and sometimes, a time to call it quits.

Just as in any relationship, lasting success depends on how well you communicate shared goals and values.

When we fail to communicate openly, we make assumptions, and those assumptions can lead even the most talented team to miss the mark. So whether looking for a long-term relationship or a fling, here are 5 questions you should ask yourself if you want to get off to a strong start.

What assets does your organization have?

It’s vital for any PR agency to know this. You may have a business partner, international contacts, or powerful networks that can be engaged. An agency would rather build on an existing foundation than reinvent the wheel—that level of innovation can be costly. Laying your assets into your foundational campaign efforts will make for a stronger chance of success.

What is your timeframe and how does it affect your budget?

Money is usually a top concern for a client, and sometimes for a PR agency – that’s why both parties may dread the budget conversation. But knowing your key deadlines in advance, as well as the timeline you can afford to take, can ease the pressure of a budget talk by determining whether a payment structure can be set up that will benefit both the client and the agency.

Are there future milestones that could undermine the strategy?

Identifying future milestones can also help spot risk, nip potential crises in the bud, and build strategies that are responsive to future needs. The strongest campaigns present a united front, but this is only possible if everyone is on the same page.

What’s off the table?

Any PR agency would like to think of themselves as out-of-the-box thinkers. But, for many clients who must answer to stakeholders, administration, or other departments, doing good work can come with constraints. If there are any limitations that you as the client know could be stumbling blocks, you should tell your agency partner as soon as possible. Since you have in-depth, legacy knowledge of your company or product, any past campaign successes or failures should be disclosed as well. It’s expensive to have an agency chase a golden goose that you paid another agency to chase six years ago – all because these past initiatives weren’t clearly communicated.

What does success look like?

This is a big one. Not every campaign is built to drive sales. Sometimes you’re focusing on brand awareness or reputation; other times, it’s simply difficult to measure impact down the sales chain, so your goal may be to strengthen a single point of contact. Whatever the case may be, your agency needs to know your definition of success, beyond the desire to be purely successful, and it needs to work with an agency to define it as specifically as possible.

So the next time you’re in the market for a PR agency and wondering how to find the right fit, what will you do? Look for a PR agency that asks you these sort of questions—a PR agency that takes a customized approach to client success, and that cares about efficiency, from the get-go. And if they don’t, you should communicate it anyway! If a third party doesn’t know what you see as success, or what key milestones are significant to you and why, what are the odds they’ll get it right?