How do you pick a great PR or Marketing Agency?
How do you pick a great PR or Marketing Agency?

When an agency can blend old school with new school, they can set themselves up to be potentially great—and a potentially great fit for you and your brand.

Innovation. Quite simply, that’s what I would look for if I was going to hire an agency to represent any of my businesses.

But how do CMOs, directors of marketing, CDOs and directors of sales pick agencies to represent their businesses? I think about this question often, especially on this path that I’ve embarked on to become the greatest mid-sized agency that ever existed.

While I would look at innovation first, I am sure others look at relationship, strength of leadership, power of results, proximity and client list, too.

Thus, a combination of all should be essential to the selection process.

If you start with innovation as an umbrella, you can probably eliminate a bunch from your pool of agency candidates. Answer this question: Are you excited by the agency’s digital footprint? Does their Website wow you? Does their team wow you? Do their results wow you? Do you respect the communications footprints of the brands they represent?

CMOs have a very tough job. They have to create some secret sauce that takes whatever product they have been assigned to and delivers a compelling message to the masses. After they nail the execution of campaign one, they have to do it over and over again—every period, every month, every quarter, every promotion and every LTO. It’s about pushing more and more sales and more and more data to constantly prove to the leadership of that organization that they are worth every penny paid to them and more.

CMOs have to justify their spend. And for this reason, they are looking for partners that will not only make the brand look great, but help them with their narrative at all of those stressful board and update meetings.

CMOs can easily follow a system of POP, digital assets, direct mail, ad spend and PR to tell the right story about that product or moment in the brand’s history. Often times, their message to the masses isn’t even what determines the ultimate sale—it’s operational and service execution. Yet the first thing to go when money gets tight is marketing—partly because, unfortunately, everyone likes to think that they’re a marketing expert.

Knowing the CMO’s struggles is vital to being a great agency partner. It is up to you to fill their gaps, extend their team, create more ideas for greatness and help them report and tell a story back to the leadership team.

For those looking at agencies, you have to feel comfortable that your agency partner can accomplish this.

When our agency was going through growing pains, one external challenge we had was that we were always the risky choice versus going with the established agency. If the decision concluded with an established agency, the CMO, director or sales lead could at least buy more time if things did not work out in saying they went with the biggest. That message stuck with me.

Today, as the biggest, we no longer have that issue. We are the safe bet, now. But then, we had to battle to be given a chance.

If I were picking an agency, I would start with innovation. What are they doing to win in the categories that are important to me as a marketing or sales leader? If I can answer this and have envy of the agency’s positioning and technology, then I am going to entertain having a conversation with them.

In marketing and communications, innovation is rare. Usually, it’s a continuation of old school tactics. When an agency can blend old school with new school, they can set themselves up to be potentially great—and a potentially great fit for you and your brand.

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