Heading up a high-growth tech company comes with a unique set of challenges. Identifying and hiring a new PR/marketing firm ranks near the top of that list – after product and service innovation, of course. This single choice could be make or break for your business. It’s not too much to say that your company’s future is decided based on your selection.
For more than 15 years, I’ve worked on the agency side of the business and have been involved in numerous client-agency relationships. In the process, I’ve come to understand what makes a good client-agency match – and what doesn’t. So the next time you hire a new PR/marketing firm, consider these five points before signing on the dotted line.
1. Does the firm understand your industry and have a passion for it?
Some firms are generalists while others are specialists. The generalist firms include multinational advertising/marketing/PR agencies with offices in major cities around the world and mid-sized marketing/PR firms that serve clients in multiple industries. The specialist firms, on the other hand, focus on a specific industry segment. At GMG, we specialize in serving B2B tech clients. That’s our niche. We’re engaged with the industry media, analysts and influencers every single day. That’s our passion.
Before choosing a firm, first find out who your account team would be and get to know them. Ensure they understand your industry inside and out and see how much they really care. Passionate teams create amazing results. I’ve seen this over and over again.
2. Does the firm have a holistic approach to integrated marketing communications?
There are a variety of firms out there. Some specialize in PR; others in marketing. But no matter what kind of services they provide, hire a firm that takes a holistic approach to integrated marketing communications. Firms with the holistic approach will dig deep into understanding your business and marketing goals and formulate their PR plans accordingly to achieve meaningful results.
Keep in mind that most PR firms say they provide marketing services. But not all of them provide truly integrated marketing and PR services. Ask for their clients’ case studies with specific results in both marketing and PR. For example, ask them to explain a strategy behind a particular content marketing piece. Did they create the piece based on the strong understanding of their client’s marketing strategy? The majority of PR firms write marketing pieces, but only great ones deliver truly integrated PR and marketing services.
3. Does the firm have happy clients?
This may sound trivial, but it is probably one of the most important pieces of information you need to ascertain the firm’s capabilities. Interview several of the firm’s clients, particularly the clients who have been working with your future account team. Ask them, “Are you happy with the account team?” PR/marketing firms are in the business of making their clients happy. It’s simple, but that’s the ultimate goal.
4. What’s the firm’s corporate culture? Is there good chemistry?
I’ve worked at several PR firms throughout my career, but each had its own unique corporate culture. Some firms were more formal than others; others were more laid back. Here at GMG, we have a casual corporate culture. Employees are encouraged to express their opinions and proactively take the initiatives. While we work extremely hard, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We laugh a lot! It’s fair to say that all of our clients share a similar corporate culture.
Just like in romance, good chemistry is essential to a long-lasting client-agency relationship. Good chemistry is natural and authentic; it shouldn’t feel forced or manufactured. It’s like a first date. You don’t need to think too hard about it. If it’s there, you’ll feel it right away. Sure, you can’t always tell if there’s good chemistry until you start working together, but you can do a quick check. All it takes is a short conversation like a brainstorming session with your future account team to determine if it’s a good fit.
5. Are they smarter than you about PR/marketing?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this month, “I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person… It’s a pretty good test.” His statement resonated with me. I think this test can be applied to client-agency relationships. Your mission is to find a firm that can be a true partner and can lead you to the next level of success. Don’t hire a “yes team.” A true partner is not afraid of voicing their opinions. They are not afraid of you. They passionately care about your business and always say what’s right, not what you want to hear. They question you, take you out of your comfort zone and advise you to try tactics you’ve never thought would work. Ask yourself, “Would you work for them?”
Simply put, hire an agency team that is smarter than you about PR/marketing.