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Digital communications

5 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR AGENCY PERFORM

Here's the thing. It doesn't matter how big, small or in-between sized client's are, identifying PR, social and digital media requirements and setting benchmarks and KPIs can be tricky. It's understandable too. What looks good to you, what defines success and what amounts to tangible results will vary from person to person and brand to brand. It also depends on the scope of works, the remit, budget and the direction received. But one thing matters. Agencies MUST arrive at a point at which they know, understand and accept your expectations as a client. It's easier than it sounds...BUT...

 PR HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE

Here are 5 Tips to help you manage your agency, ensure they deliver the results you expect and, importantly, deliver a return on your investment.

1. WRITE A BRIEF

When you discuss ongoing plans with your agency, or appoint an agency, give them a proper brief. Too many meetings start with a conversation led by the agency about what they can do, or have done for other brands. Or, an opportunity presents itself along the lines of: "We're looking for a PR agency to do our PR."....whatever that means.

You want results, but what results? An agency should understand your aims and expectations, as well as your issues, challenges and commercial objectives. Your brief should set clear indications of where your brand is now, what you want to achieve, and by when. Be clear about the message you want to send to your audiences, who and where those audiences are and how you will measure the agency's effectiveness in delivering campaigns that achieve your aims. So, if you expect media coverage, blogger outreach and online coverage, specify that and give indications of the type of media outlets you ideally want to be in and how many placements you expect.

For social media, define what success looks like and how you will determine the agency's performance: is it the number of fans/followers gained, engagement, content quality and/or quantity and/or social marketing performance? Or all?

In order for an agency to come back with inspiring campaign ideas that get right to the heart of your aims and expectations, it needs to know what they are. The more clarity, detail and information you give, the more you'll get back. It's that straight forward.

2. DEFINE YOUR EXPECTATIONS & SET KPI's

It sounds quite simple, but you'd be surprised that even blue-chips sometimes fail to communicate their expectations. It's not a critical point because sometimes they just don't know what looks good or defines success. So expect your agency to help you by proposing realistic benchmarks that you agree are reflective of your investment. If an agency doesn't know what you expect, how is it ever going to meet your expectations, let alone exceed them? And if the agency fails to help you arrive at agreeable benchmarks, how will you ever know if they are performing? 

To ensure you get good value for money and a return on your investment in an agency, make sure both parties arrive at SMART objectives; that's Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Targeted/Timely that can be a). revised to measure the agency's achievements and b). aligned to your investment.

3. BUDGET

We're sorry but we'll say it anyway. The number of times an agency asks: "OK, so you want to dominate the world and be the No.1 global brand by next month, so what's your budget." To be met with: "Well, how much will it cost?" No, no. So, when you next buy a house you speak to your estate agent and he/she say's: "Great, so what's your budget?" Do you reply: "Well I don't really want to divulge that, how much does a house cost?" The next thing you know, they try to sell you a £1m mansion when you only have £250k.

Let's be straight...agencies can only work with what they have to work with. Not being clear about your budget or investment capability puts the agency in an impossible predicament. We know this because we often get asked to pitch campaign ideas to show how we'd approach an account without any idea about how much investment the client is making. So, we are doomed to fail...if we do, which we don't. Why? Because we'd either pitch too low with ideas that fail to impress simply because we assume a lower investment capability than the client is expecting to make, or we pitch far too high because we assumed the opposite. Provide the agency with a maximum upper limit and you'll receive campaign ideas that are relevant to your investment. In other words, tell the estate agent you have £250k, and he'll show you a £250k house!

One thing worth mentioning. Give the overall budget which includes campaign investments and the agency's management fees. The agency's role is to create and execute imaginative campaigns, storyboards and initiatives that will inspire, influence and engage your audiences. Their fees must reflect the resources they deploy to deliver effective campaigns but you need to invest in the campaigns too. 

4. EVALUATE

So, your agency has blown you away with amazing campaign ideas and directions that have demonstrated they've understood your brief and expectations, and these ideas are aligned to your budget. As they implement them insist that they report to demonstrate the successful execution of your brief and are delivering what you expect of them. This also ensures the agency can be honest about the support they receive from you. Make sure, as part of the briefing process, that the agency knows when and how it is expected to report on its progress, so there is a clear process in place.

Remember the world is not a perfect science, so ensure your agency has a plan to address areas that may be performing below expectation and for activities that are exceeding what was proposed.

5. EVOLVE

PR, social media, digital PR and paid for programs are part of a journey that constantly needs to evolve. If the strategy and plan, the implementation of your campaigns and results are in line with, or even beyond, what you expected, make sure the agency presents opportunities, ideas and executions that evolve your plan. Ensure they keep pace with changes in social media and digital environments and have the team and resources in place to deliver what you need. And make sure complacency doesn't creep in on either side.

Of course, there's more involved than the above, but we hope these tips help you to better manage your agency relationships, provide guidance for agencies you are speaking to and, at the very least, ensure your agency performs under clear instruction.

 CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO OPEN 'THE BRIEFING' PDF with more information on briefing your agency

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO OPEN 'THE BRIEFING' PDF with more information on briefing your agency

Has this article been useful? If so, please email paul@vividpr.co.uk with any comments or observations, or call him on 01372 476 362  

PR HAPPY? HOW TO AVOID A BAD HAIR DAY!

If you're PR and social media happy, then we're happy for you. But stop and think. What is your agency doing for you right now? You might be happy...but how happy?

We ask because we are surprised at the number of people, brands and companies we've met over the years that are far from happy. No? Go to an exhibition or industry event and introduce yourself as a PR. Then feel the reaction. First, these events shouldn't be used by PR's to 'tout' for business, but most can't resist. "Ah ha," they say. "We spot an opportunity for some free promo! We don't want to pay for a stand, so we'll exploit the fact that these companies have invested thousands to come here to promote their business, build customer relationships and makes sales, but we'll just pop on, cold call them to try and sell our PR services." Great call! 

OMG, not another PR Agency!

See the roll of the eyes as the person you meet reacts with, "OMG, you're the 30th PR agency to come here today," or: "Nope, we do it ourselves because we've used agencies before and it didn't work for us." Of course we're generalising, but this is often the case when you meet SMEs and business owners, not so much the big corporates whose decision-makers rarely venture to the fore.

But, here's the flip-side. "When you delve below the surface and enquire about how the agency was briefed, what targets they were set and how their achievements were evaluated, quite often you're met with a different response. Often it's, "I don't know, they just 'did our PR'." Whatever that means!

 Move to the right...it's where we live!

Move to the right...it's where we live!

The PR equivalent of a bad hair day!

So, here's an analogy. You get a bad haircut. Now, either the barber or hairdresser is appalling, and let's face it, there are plenty of those. Or, maybe you didn't tell them what you wanted, or communicate what you expected in terms of a result? Maybe, just maybe you are partly responsible for your crap hair do! Or maybe you did explain but they just didn't listen because they're too hellbent on how they do what they do, and you'll have it their way, or no way. So what now? Are you NEVER going to get another haircut, ever again, because you had a bad experience? Good luck with that and your audition for a cameo in the next Jumanji movie!

The reality is, yes there are rubbish PRs. But there are also a lot of good ones that either don't have the right briefing processes, or they start acting for a client and agreeing fees before they even know what they're supposed to be doing. Of course there are other circumstances that can cause agency/client tensions, but these kind of cover the basics.

Where PR, social and digital media are concerned, a lack of clarity in the brief, aligning activities and expectations to investment, and ensuring the both the client and agency know what results are expected, are pretty important. But. We are surprised that often briefing questions can't be answered by the client, even when asked. Such as. "OK, so you want 'media coverage'", what amount of coverage is required? Don't know? "OK, social media-wise, what defines success? Not sure? Well do you measure it in terms of community size, post engagement, quality and quantity of content, PPC/social marketing ROI for example? OK, you don't know..." and so it continues...not always, but like we said, you'd be surprised!

I demand some DETAIL!

So, as much as blog waffling is fun, let's cut to the chase. DEMAND the detail from your agency. Make sure they know what to achieve and by when. How much coverage? Give numbers and of course define the media and types of audience demographic they need to reach. Client: "So you got a product placement in the Womble Common Gazette and it's also duplicated in their 20 associated local rags! Great, but I want my hair cosmetics to be seen by salon owners!" Doh! Social media. Set targets e.g. community size/monthly growth, number and types of content, how your social marketing investment will be spent and what it must deliver in terms of a return. These are just some examples that, resolved, can end the PR equivalent of a bad hair day!

It's a reason why VIViD has created 'The Briefing' too. This process is designed to succeed so it can't fail you, or us. We like happy clients feeling great, so ask yourself again...how happy are you, really? We'd love to discuss what we can do for you but, at the very least, take this to your agency and start setting some goals and benchmarks. Don't mention it...

 Click on the image to open 'The Briefing' PDF and embark on a new agency relationship today.

Click on the image to open 'The Briefing' PDF and embark on a new agency relationship today.