There are plenty to choose from and the vast majority of them are honest, hard-working and will do a good job for you.
The most important thing as client is to be clear about what you need from an agency, and it’s vital to go in with a firm, and realistic budget.
Depending on the size of the project and your budget, you may choose to put the work out to tender which will involve inviting a reasonable number of appropriate agencies to pitch their ideas and approaches.
Never think that you have to go to big city agencies for good work and great results: there are many smaller agencies around the provinces that can deliver first class work and offer a more personalised but equally effective approach, often at a more competitive cost.
Alternatively, make an appointment to visit two or three established local agencies and talk to them about what you’re looking for. Be clear about what you want to achieve. Satisfy yourself they have the skills you need, that they are people you can work with and that they really understand what you want.
If media relations is to form part of the approach, look for good writing skills and established media contacts. Also ensure they have the necessary digital skills for social media work, if that’s going to have a role.
The trick is to be able to use all the available channels to achieve your objectives. Your chosen agency should be able to discuss and demonstrate the advantages of an integrated approach using as many channels as are appropriate.
If it’s a website you’re after, remember that there are three main elements: the content – words and images – the design of the site, and finally the actual building and maintenance of the site.
Some PR agencies can offer all the skills in house for all these elements but do ask the right questions. There’s no harm at all in an agency subcontracting some elements of a project as long as they tell you that’s what they’re doing.
Perhaps most importantly of all, look for creativity, passion and transparency. Choose an agency that makes you feel comfortable, that places adding long term sustainable value above short-term commercial gain, and that has real integrity.
Whoever you talk with, ask which members of the team will be working on your account and put in place a reporting structure with regular meetings. Any good agency will welcome scrutiny and embrace accountability. Agreeing KPIs is advisable.
Membership of a professional body such as the CIPR or PRCA is also reassuring.
Don’t worry too much about whether they have experience of your specific sector. It helps, but it’s the skills that matter most. And please don’t be nervous about telling an agency what budget you have set aside! We need to know what we have to work with so that we can use your hard-earned resources to best effect.
Any agency worth its salt will want to deliver great results so that they can keep and hopefully grow your business.
Look for an agency that will challenge your views and requirements: they’re the experts. That’s what you’re paying for.
For example, we’ve had several clients asking us to quote for a website. They believe that’s what they need when they come in to talk to us. When we challenge them, it quickly becomes clear that what they actually want is more clients and customers. A website may have a role in achieving that objective but it may not be the most effective or only approach.
About De Winter
We’re immensely proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary in July next year. How have we survived so long in such a fast-changing and competitive marketplace?
It helps to be good at what you do, and we are: 14 awards in the last three years alone, including Agency of the Year and achieving the honour of being voted one of the UK’s top 150 agencies. We’re really proud of that.
But it isn’t just about being good and what you do and delivering results. People expect you to deliver. That’s what they pay for. It’s how you do it that gives you sustainability.
We work hard to build and develop a great team made up of people who support and genuinely care for each other, who are willing to leave their own egos at the door for the good of the clients and the business, and who trust each other enough to be comfortable in robustly challenging each other. Team de Winter is a great entity to belong to and it’s a massive compliment that people genuinely want to be part of it.
Our people understand and fully embrace the concept of ‘moments of truth’ where every email, call, welcome, report and meeting is a massive opportunity to engage, influence and develop relationships.
We have incredibly close relationships with all of our clients, some of whom we’ve worked with for over 15 years. It’s no coincidence, since we work only with people and organisations that share our values and for whom we know we can make a difference. Grasping for short-term commercial gain is simply unsustainable.
Openness, authenticity and trust are the cornerstones of our client relationships. They are our friends and which of us would ever wish to let down our friends?
We understand the importance of matching external perceptions with internal realities and we recognise that if you set out first and foremost to help your clients as people, add real value and make them feel good, financial success inevitably follows.
We’re a team that does that what it says it’s going to do when it says it’s going to do it. We practice stakeholder alignment: if we look after our people, they will give of their best, that will delight our clients, helping us to grow our business, please our shareholders and enable us to improve the team’s standard of living, completing the virtuous circle.
• Hems de Winter is the founder and Director of de Winter, a multi award-winning Chester-based PR, Social Media and digital communications agency specialising in retail and working with global brands in the UK and Europe. Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.thinkdewinter.co.uk