Here is a portion of the article from Gulf Shore Business magazine September 2016 issue:
1. Is the agency willing to listen?
When you meet with a potential communications agency for the first time, the public relations practitioners should be asking questions and listening, rather than immediately pitching their services.
Some of the questions may surprise and challenge a business owner, says Russell Tuff, president of the Gulf Coast chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Those questions could revolve around your company’s mission, future goals, past accomplishments, challenges and how much time you are willing to invest in building and refining a strategic communications plan.
If the agency doesn’t understand your company’s story, then it cannot tell the story. If after the initial meeting, the agency doesn’t capture your vision, then it may not be a good fit, Tuff says.
Hiring a public relations agency does not mean that a business owner should be hands off. Rather, the business owner should expect a time commitment with the agency to ensure that it is measuring the right information, having the right outcome, Tuff says.
4. Based on your company’s needs, would a local or national agency be a better match?
In selecting a public relations agency, businesses in Southwest Florida must decide if they want a local or national agency. A local company knows the local market and can physically be there for you when it’s necessary, Robertson says.
The greatest advantage to a local agency is that it understands the nuances of a community, Tuff says. Still, he acknowledges that if the company is seeking national exposure, then it may make sense to use an out-of-town agency that is familiar with the company’s line of work.
6. What will be the return on investment for hiring a public relations agency?
Businesses should not be afraid to hold an agency accountable for its performance. Walker says the criteria for accountability should ideally be SMART-goals oriented: Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-Based. Various aspects of business can be measured, such as sales performance, brand/product awareness and preference, improvement in market-share, brand/product perception within the target audience and key metrics established for the initiative.
If a plan isn’t reaching desired results, Tuff says the public relations professional should be able to quickly adjust as needed.