By Amy Redhead
The challenge of finding the right fit for your business should not be underestimated. Here are our top tips on preparing a brief that will ensure you select the best possible agency for your requirements and budget.
1) Get input from everyone at the start and agree on the objectives:
It is no good asking a PR agency to show how they would raise brand awareness amongst IT managers if what your CEO wants to know is how the agency will help the company influence CIOs, or how social media will drive traffic to the corporate website. Whoever in the organisation will have the most contact with the agency is usually the best person to put the brief together. However, there will undoubtedly be others who will want to have a say. Identify who needs to have input and get everyone’s agreement on what you wish to achieve from the beginning.
2) What type of agency do you want?
If you are a B2B technology company it’s important that you focus your search on agencies that really understand your market. There are lots of different B2B agencies out there, specialising in IT, from global operators to local niche agencies who specialise in a particular technology such as security or digital marketing, to one man bands who work from home. Check out prospective agencies’ client experience so you can be sure they understand the specific areas you work in. After all, the communications challenge, media and industry issues are very different for a global telecoms operator than they are for a niche software start-up.
3) Make sure the brief covers everything important
Include your business goals, your wider marketing activities and communications. Tell them about your market, your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and where you fit in. Explain who will be working with the agency and how they want to work with them? What are your expectations? What do you want from the relationship? Answering these questions will help give the agencies a rounded picture.
4) Consider your target audience
Who are your target audiences? If your target market is the retail sector who are you trying to reach? Is it the IT manager, the CEO or the head of procurement? If you are trying to sell network management software do you want to influence the IT administrators who use it or the CIO who might sign off the budget?
5) Be clear on the scope of your brief
What exactly do you want the agency to do – offer strategic consultancy, provide creative ideas, write press releases and case studies, or manage your social media? Don’t scrimp on important details, if you want to enter new vertical markets, which vertical markets are a focus and in which market? If the brief includes social media do you expect the agency to run and manage this or just advise on the strategy?
6) What will you manage in house?
Consider what elements of the PR campaign you want to manage in-house. Take press releases for example – there is a big different between an agency having to take the brief, draft the release, manage approvals, distribute and pitch in the news to just putting the release on Businesswire for you.
7) Keep an open mind
Consider what type of agency you are looking for, but try to keep an open mind. In a similar way to hiring your next hot shot employee the decision often boils down to chemistry so don’t rule out an agency purely based on its size or past experience.
8) Have a budget in mind
Provide an indication of the budget so agencies can pitch their ideas accordingly. You will never get the best from their pitches if you leave the matter open-ended. It’s a bit like walking into an estate agents and letting them guess how much you want to spend. Be realistic, do you want the PR equivalent of a mansion or in reality can you only afford a one bedroom flat? Many agencies have a minimum budget they will work with so if your budget falls under this there is no point asking them in to pitch.
9) How do you want agencies to respond to the brief?
Be clear on the next steps. Ask your long list of agencies to demonstrate their understanding of, and experience in, your key areas before whittling them down to your short list. We recommend inviting a shortlist of three agencies in to pitch face-to-face. This gives you a chance to meet the team and ask any questions you might have. Let them know that they are down to the final three as this should ensure they put the required effort into their presentation.
10) Have a process in place to assess the agencies fairly
Work out a system for assessing the presentations. Mark each presentation against what you are looking for and prioritise each of these things appropriately e.g. capabilities and experience, quality of ideas; quality of team, enthusiasm and response to questions.
It may seem like a lot of work but nailing this part of the selection process will save a great deal of time later on. Take our advice on board and the process should be fairly painless and dare we say it enjoyable.
About the author
Amy Redhead is head of client services at Aspectus PR.
Aspectus PR is a global communications and PR agency focusing on Financial Services, Energy, B2B Technology Engineeringand Events. As an integrated mainstream and digital communications agency, Aspectus PR provides targeted, intelligent, strategic and creative media campaigns that push all the right buttons with all the right people. For more information please go to: www.aspectuspr.com