10 questions to ask before signing with a B2B PR agency
Before any big investment, it’s important to do your homework and fully understand what you’re getting for your money. This holds true when you’re choosing a B2B PR agency, but it can be difficult to gauge the expertise of the team, its concentrated creativity, and relationships with the media from just a few meetings and calls. Here are ten questions you can ask a prospective B2B PR agency to determine whether they’re up to the task.
1. What objectives will a B2B PR agency help you to achieve?
Working with a B2B PR agency is a brilliant way to generating awareness and build business and individual profiles. However, it is not a tool that will singlehandedly generate leads and new sales directly or quickly – and you should be cautious of any agency that tells you it will. In turn, a good agency should want to know from you how PR fits into the marketing mix.
2. How can we make PR a part of our lead generation mix?
While PR on its own may not directly equate to ROI, there are ways to align it with your overall marketing strategy to ensure all your efforts pull in the right direction. Consider adopting a digital PR strategy that helps with your link building efforts together with brand awareness objectives. Effective digital PR services should improve both search visibility and brand recognition as part of a larger lead generation strategy.
3. How will success be measured?
Once the objectives are clear and agreed, make sure KPIs are in place to track the B2B PR agency’s progress against your goals. These should be reported monthly and analysed at least once per quarter. Find out how the agency reports, and ensure the frequency and format of their reports can work for your internal purposes.
4. How long will it take to get results?
This really depends on how newsworthy the things your company has to talk about are. Additionally, it takes time to build media relationships – journalist ‘favours’ are few and far between, no matter how good the agency’s media relations little black book is.
Your best chance of getting an answer is to discuss results with the agency as part of KPI setting. Our first month of a client retainer is a planning month, which includes media outreach to help shape our strategy. With this approach, we’re usually able to see results by week six.
5. What’s included in media relations?
We all flip between print, online, audio and video seamlessly throughout the day – and your media relations approach needs to reflect this. Ask the B2B PR agency what their strategy is for targeting different media formats – not just different publications. If your audience is international, they should also offer answers that demonstrate an understanding of how the media operates differently across regions. For profile building, the agency should also consider whether your spokespeople are media trained and offer support if they are not.
6. What counts as a result?
The agency should provide detailed audience insight – what they listen to, watch and read – and this audience-centric approach, aligned to your objectives, should be used to benchmark the value placed on results. For instance, if you are looking to create mass-market awareness for your brand, then the focus should be national and broadcast media coverage. If your brand is more niche, then quality, in depth coverage in the relevant trade media is the way to go.
7. Who will be working on my account?
Some agencies use pitch teams, others – us included – take the approach that clients prefer to meet the team they’ll be working with day to day. A good agency will want to invest the time of their people in understanding your business, and the sooner this starts, the better.
8. How does the pricing or retainer work?
Some agencies work on a project basis, some work on retainers, and many will work both ways. It’s important to get a full understanding of the costs involved in either. Ask about external costs and the agency’s policy on expenses, travel time, and who pays for media monitoring and clippings. A detailed breakdown will help you to assess whether the agency is the right partner from a budgetary perspective.
9. What will you need from us?
A good agency will aim to be self-sufficient, but they can’t see through the walls of your organisation. In our experience, brands get the most out of agencies when they provide them with access. Try to get a clear understanding of what the agency needs during their onboarding process. If you want to be an excellent client, start gathering these details as early as possible and agree a plan for providing information going forward.
10. What processes are involved?
A great B2B PR agency should be agile and flexible – news moves fast and so must PR – but this doesn’t mean that process goes out the window. If your business has rigid processes, it’s important that the agency understands them, and that you understand the way the agency operates.