Four Tips For Successfully Managing Your Public Relations Agency

In my twenty years as a communications professional, I’ve spent more than half of that time as a “client” and in the process have learned a few things about how to effectively manage an agency.  Hiring a public relations agency can be one the the single largest investments that a marketing or communications team makes and trust me, no one wants the relationship to be successful more than your agency.  Here are some tips I’ve learned and coached my internal teams on along the way that can help you make sure you have a great relationship with your agency:

  1. Know the right time to hire an agency.

It’s important to know the right to time to hire a public relations agency.  First, ask why you need an agency right now.  Is it to accomplish something that your internal team can’t do on their own?  Are you at a tipping point in your business where adding an agency to the mix will help you achieve specific goals?  Second, ask if you have the time to manage an agency.  Just like an internal team member, you’ll need to take the time to bring them up to speed on your business and then spend time with them helping to plan and prioritize the work they’ll be doing.  Whether it’s building a social media calendar or doing media relations, it will still require your time to guide them. Third, and this is often the elephant in the room during any agency search process, ask if you have the budget to maintain an agency relationship over the long term.  While a good agency will hit the ground running and try to start to get you results right away, realistically, it takes a few months to learn your business, optimize your social media, get reporters interested in you and begin to see to traction.


  1. Pick the right agency for the job.

When you’re hiring a PR agency, make sure you pick the right agency for the job.  Find an agency that fits the culture of your organization and is going to prioritize you as a client.  Don’t get star struck by big agency names, because the reality is that the secret sauce to any agency is the team it puts on your business, not the money it invests in its office space or own branding.  Insist on meeting that team during the hiring process and get to know them, from the most senior person to the most junior, because they’ll all be doing work for you.


  1. Make sure your agency has the direction and resources they need to do the job.

Brief, brief, brief.  Make sure you have a standard process in place to brief your agency each. and. every. time. you ask them to start a new project.  This will save you and the agency a tremendous amount of time (which equals budget) and help ensure that you get a great product every time you assign them work. Whether it’s writing a press release or developing a co-marketing program, make sure they have the resources and assets they need up front to be successful and do a good job for you, because at the end of the day, that’s their only goal.


  1. Don’t be afraid to give feedback.

Give feedback fast and be specific.  A good public relations agency will want the feedback and will adapt quickly to address it, so don’t be afraid to give it.


My best piece of advice for anyone hiring a PR agency is that your agency relationship is typically a direct reflection on the culture of your own team.   They are only as good as how you brief them on projects, keep them up to date on the business and manage their time and priorities.  The best agencies are great at helping clients do this and then navigating the political waters of their internal organizations and helping them cut through the clutter to accomplish results.  With that said, even the best agencies can’t accomplish what your team or organization is not willing to do.
With the right investment of time and resources, a strong agency relationship can be a tremendous asset for an organization looking to build its brand and its business.

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