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Your Agency Partner – Team Extension or Another Vendor?

Your Agency Partner – Team Extension or Another Vendor?

You went through the rigorous process to find a new agency partner. Whether it was for lobbying, communications, marketing or website development, this process took you and your team time. Now you have them onboard – what next? How do you optimize your relationship to make sure you leverage the best of your partners and they don’t just become another vendor?

First, you have to decide what you want: a partner or a vendor. A partner is an extension of your team – they know the ins and outs of your company, have a stake in seeing you succeed and are involved in the strategic planning for the department. Vendors on the other hand are order takers – they do what you say and don’t offer that additional strategic layer that asks questions about why something is being done or if it aligns with the business goals.

While vendors are critical to an organizations’ success, is that what you want or need after you selected a new agency? In my experience, no that is not what you want. You want the group that pushes back and pushes your thinking to make sure you get the results you need.

Once you commit to making the agency a partner, it will take time and education to get them to be that additional strategic arm. It is just like a new hire – they need to be brought up to speed. That can be done a number of ways:

  • Kickoff and intro meetings with key stakeholders Have short intro calls with your potential spokespeople, decision makers and anyone who will be working with the agency. Allow the agency to pick their brain, get to know them and understand the nuances of the organization.
  • Provide the agency with all relevant information – If you think you gave your new partner everything, give them more – every logo, plan, report, pitch or piece of marketing collateral. They want to see how your company talks and thinks so that they can align with that process.
  • Give them the inside scoop that will help them help you – Hopefully your scope of work clearly aligns with what you are measured on, but it is helpful to tell the agency what types of reports or updates help you look good. If your boss likes marketing data and analysis, they can build their reports on those points and less on the anecdotal outcomes.
  • Collaborate with them – In the first few weeks or months, the agency will provide thoughts or counsel on how your organization is working. They are trying to help and fresh eyes can often have good ideas or help processes improve. If they give you advice, work with them to understand their side and then educate them on the nuances of the organization.

If part of your job is to manage an agency, just know that we want to help you and make you look good too. If you bring the agency in as part of your team and make them a partner, we promise it will help you in the long run.

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

In Stephen Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage,” readers learn about the courageous Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the advanced planning and preparation that went into such a grand, historic adventure.  It got me thinking just how important a fraction of such planning is for a client’s public relations program.

Depending on the nature of the agency/client relationship, PR plans can go many different ways.

But there are some key objectives necessary for every plan.  They include:

  • Setting the parameters of a PR program and the appropriate expectations of results with clients
  • Providing guidance on program priorities
  • Establishing a roadmap for tactical execution

Usually, the account executive spearheads the development of a plan in conjunction with other members of an account team, and certainly with the insights of the client’s PR and marketing leads.

From my perspective, each PR plan should be original to a client, given its circumstances, yet still draw upon the best practices of the agency.

Furthermore, the account executive should confirm the form-factor of such a plan.  Is a narrative proposal in Word, a PowerPoint presentation, or an Excel spreadsheet with tabs the best way to communicate the agency’s thought process?  Ask your client before embarking on one vs. another.

It should go without saying, but any plan should be built on sound research, outlining key issues and trends related to a client’s business and market space, and include target audiences, competitors, and influencers.  Brainstorming among client team members is one effective way to generate fresh ideas, and to develop strong communication goals, strategies and tactics in support of the client’s overall business objectives.

A detailed PR plan should consider the following program elements:

  • Situational analysis
  • Share of voice and social amplification
  • Influencing the influencers
  • Target verticals
  • Target audiences
  • Business goals
  • Communication goals
  • PR strategies and recommendations
  • PR tactics (may include such things as editorial calendars, and speaker, award and event research based on the program’s direction)
  • Target influencers (media and others)
  • Budget
  • Calendar of activities
  • PR metrics
  • Any optional program elements for client consideration, such as analyst relations

At its heart, a PR plan establishes the communication objectives, strategies and tactics toward reaching a client’s business goals.  Such materials are crucial to ensuring that all key constituencies – from executives to line-of-business and marketing leaders – are aligned with the direction of the program.  Such a plan serves as a beacon, and ensures that everyone agrees with the program’s elements, metrics, budget and results.

And much like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery, achievements will be celebrated.