It might seem cheeky for someone who works in the commercial department of a communications agency to write about the criteria they would follow to hire a public relations consultant (should they experience the process from the other side).
Allow me to remind you that, already at university, Emil Dovifat explained something that made many of us think: impartiality does not exist. Thus, I cannot promise to be completely unbiased, but I will assure you that my intention and the writing of this post is the product of a deep reflection during which I have intended to put myself in the shoes of the person I have in front of me in order to make their search easier. In the past few years, I have met several directors and, although their needs at a specific moment are as changeable and different as their personalities, we could establish some general factors or fundamental criteria at a first glance:
- How many agencies do I call?: Let’s not go crazy; choose three and ask people close to you or professionals you trust about them. Sometimes even a journalist might have a good view of who works better or worse. If you opt for a mass tender, the quality of the proposals will decrease.
- Size: big or small?: I don’t think we should obsess over this. However, it is important that the person with whom you have direct contact be the one making the decisions. If you believe that you won’t be able to reach someone prepared to negociate or correct the activities, I wouldn’t hire.
- International or national: Well, it depends on what you are looking for. If we are talking about international campaigns, having agency’s headquarters in other countries might be a bonus, but I wouldn’t stop there. Nowadays, there are very powerful international networks that enable some agencies to work with activity-related partners and hence avoid having to limit themselves to a specific agency. If we are interested in international campaigns, that is what we should inquire into. If we want a national campaign, the international nature looses momentum.
- Experience in my field: There are very special sectors that require a great deal of expertise (financial environments, B2B technology), but in addition to valuing the experience in that field, there is another factor that can help us even further. Would you be able to bring me out of my specialized media? How? Can you show me some examples?
- Budget: This is the most delicate subject. Having reached this point, it won’t be me who will start complaining about small agencies smashing prices, because big and medium ones have done it at some point too. Nevertheless, I would be suspicious if one of the estimates is excessively low. In the end, it’s like with everything else: if you like it, won’t you be willing to pay a bit more and choose the proposal that you truly like?
- Team: Who they are and how much experience they have. There might be fantastic agencies, but when all is said and done, it won’t be the agency who will manage your communication. There will be a team responsible for that and, let’s not disregard this, they will talk to journalists on behalf of your company. We must really keep an eye on this.
Let’s not forget that, in the end, what makes us stay and marry an agency for several years is, among other factors, an intangible but existing feeling. However, I’m afraid that this can only be reliably measured once we’ve started working with the chosen agency…
Juan Freijo, Business Development Manager