Your company or organization is about to begin a massive project, and you need communications support. Or maybe you don’t feel your current communications agency is delivering on its promise, and you’re seeking a new one. Either way, you need to find a new agency. And we both know it can be a daunting, stressful undertaking.
The good news is we’ve done some of the work for you. Whether you’re cold-calling agencies, scoping out their websites and narrowing down your list of possibilities, or have sent out an RFP and are now sifting through the candidates, keep these 10 criteria in mind when researching agencies and making your ultimate choice.
1) In-house capabilities – Knowing which services the agency provides is key, but also ask which are provided in house versus by contractors or vendors. Those provided outside the agency will result in additional costs and time to complete projects. Ask for a full list of services – it will prove useful in planning not only current, but future projects as well. Building a long-term relationship with an agency is much easier (and more cost-effective) than seeking a new agency every time you need project support.
2) Experience – Take the time to speak to a few of the agency’s current and past clients to get a sense of how they interact with clients and the level of work they deliver. If the agency doesn’t have a background in your field, don’t write them off right way. They may have experience that can be applied to your business or organization. An agency with a cadre of tourism clients but no retail experience may end up taking the perfect destination marketing approach that your shopping center needs.
3) An integrated team approach – Do the interactive developers talk to the design team or copywriters? They should. Strong teams consist of individuals with varying strengths and skill sets who can contribute unique and fresh perspectives to a project. An agency’s video producer, for example, may have a great idea for an online video that could spark a successful social media and public relations campaign. Ideas are everywhere. A good agency recognizes that.
4) Team structure – Just as important as an integrated team approach is a solid team structure. Depending on the scope of work, your team may consist of two or 10 individuals. Most agencies will assign clients one key contact who is responsible for managing all projects, answering your questions, addressing your concerns and handling day-to-day tasks. Ask how the backgrounds of those on your account team make them the best fit and what their role will be.
5) Thought leadership – The world of communications is rapidly changing. Agencies should be keeping up with new trends and tools and putting them into action. Take a look at the agency’s website to see what research—if any—they have completed. Are they constantly expanding their knowledge and embracing innovation? Are they thought leaders or followers? What you find out can say a lot about how they will approach your project.
6) Client collaboration – You may already have some ideas you want to discuss with the agency—or you may want them to take your direction and run with it. No matter which approach you take, you should understand how the agency works with clients and make sure it reflects your preference. Most agencies view their clients as partners and value highly collaborative relationships, but confirm with the agency beforehand.
7) Community involvement – Agencies are often closely tied to the communities in which they’re located. Board involvement and local volunteer work demonstrate these ties and reveal the agency’s character. Their community presence could end up benefiting you; the agency may be able to connect you with local organizations or influencers or facilitate strategic partnerships.
8) A record of results – In the end, it all comes down to results and whether your goals were met. All agencies should have metrics in place to monitor progress and measure impact as well as a proven record of results.
9) A good attitude – If possible, visit the agency and take a tour. Try to meet as many employees as you can. Do they appear happy and enthusiastic or stressed out and resentful? Is there an environmental buzz, with people working together and talking to each other, or is the office silent? A quick tour can reveal a lot about the agency.
10) Compatibility – Lastly, can you see yourself working well with the team? Your relationship may last a while, so feeling comfortable with the agency and enjoying your time with the account team is a must.
This list may seem like a tall order, but the fact is that good agencies recognize the importance of each of these items and are already doing them—naturally. Let us know if we’ve missed anything important on this list, or if you have unique criteria agencies must meet. We’d love to hear from you!