Friday, 18 June 2010

10 Questions I’d Ask If Was Taking On A PR Agency

Rolls Royce has been making headlines this week by announcing their bid to hire a UK PR Agency for the first time. Peter Morgan, Rolls-Royce's global comms chief, seems a tough judge to please stating earlier in the year that social media was 'a complete waste of time'.

It was from this that I got to thinking of the questions I would look to ask if I were looking to take on a PR Agency. Nope, I’ve never been inhouse. I did try it once but resigned on day three. But that’s another story. Other than that bizarre, and some would say, unfortunately episode (my mum for one), I have been frighteningly loyal to WPR ever since.

That said, over the years, I have picked up several accounts from very disillusioned Marketing Directors and taken on some wonderful staff with very curious stories to tell.

So, if I did ever go inhouse there are some questions I would ask before selecting my PR agency. However (before my CEO sprints through with a panicked look on her face) that is very unlikely to happen. Rather than let my thoughts go to waste, here they are (for what they are worth).

  1. What is the average number of rechargeable days per executive? Basic maths suggests that if it’s less than ten they’re in trouble, more than 15 and you’ll get an overworked, stressed out PRO who will have left the agency before your first year review.
  2. What is their annual training budget? Admittedly learning PR doesn’t compare to learning how to fly a fighter jet, but I’ve met a shocking number of PR people who come to us having never had a formal day’s training in their life. There is such a thing as learning on job, but when it comes to learning from your mistakes, I’d probably rather they weren’t on my account.
  3. Who will copy, mount and send me my press cuttings? If they say the account handler, alarm bells would ring. I’d rather not be paying upwards of £600 a day for someone to sit at their desk with a Pritt stick in one hand and piece of A4 in the other.
  4. What is their attitude to overservice? Overserve happens (it’s the curse of our industry) but how we handle it differs from agency to agency. Enormously. Trust me on this one.
  5. What is the average length of service? Our industry has a high staff churn – but there’s staff churn and there’s spinning like a washing machine on the fast cycle.
  6. Can the proposed Account Manager tell you the benefits of an inbound link? Can they tell you what a metatag is? Do they know your Google page rank? How would they optimise the copy they produced for the web? Does the whole team know their stuff when it comes to Digital PR – or is there a dedicated person/team? You get my drift.
  7. Does the agency practise what it preaches? How many followers have they got on Twitter? What is their page rank? Well, you’d never pick a hairdresser with bad hair – would you?
  8. Is the agency prepared to give you their entire client list and let you pick at least four people to approach for referrals? You’d hope so.
  9. How much time will the agency assign to just tracking your reputation and how will they do that? If you are serious about that one, ask them to sum your reputation up there and then. That’s a killer question but if they know their Alexas from their Technoratis, you’ll hear some useful stuff.
  10. How will the agency decide if they have done a good job for you? Not sure that there is a right or wrong answer on this one but it’s question I have always wanted to ask and would if I was you, which I’m not. Obviously.

More additions welcome – in fact, encouraged.


  1. Quality is better than quantity..................................................................                           

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