By Cassy van Eeden

Know what you want

Before going about appointing an agency, be sure that you know exactly what you will be expecting from them.

“Some businesses employ a public relations agency because they think it’s an essential business tool, and yet they do so with no clear objectives in mind,” says Samantha Walt, senior account director at Magna Carta.

“Before hiring a PR firm, it is essential to have clear business objectives set out.” She adds that, while it is important to have definite business objectives in place, it is equally as important to make sure your PR agency is made aware of and fully understands these objectives.

It is difficult to hold an agency accountable if you are not clear about what it is you expect them to achieve.

Do your research

After being presented with a flashy pitch, you may be tempted to appoint an agency right away. Don’t.

“Do research into the agency,” says Evelyn Holtzhausen, co-founder and president of HWB. “Does it offer the services your business needs to thrive? Are they up-to-date with the rapidly changing world of communications?”

Lauren Volmink, director of Atmosphere, says your research should include looking into the agency’s past and present clients “to ensure depth of experience in the relevant sector and target audience groups”.

Look for a partner

Although it is a popular belief, appointing a communications firm is not as simple as outsourcing a supplier. It’s about finding a team that you click with so that you can collaborate towards reaching your goals.

“Don’t ignore the importance of chemistry,” says Volmink, “It is the foundation upon which you will be able to build a strong, lasting relationship”

Walt agrees: “You also need to like the people who are assigned to work on your account.”

Volmink advises that brands look for agencies who feel like “an extension of your internal team – a partner rather than a supplier”.

“Clients should also explore the consultancy’s full list of services,” says Volmink. “Even if it’s not required right now, it’s always good to look at the full scope of services should this be needed further down the line.”

Pay attention to case studies

Case studies often make up a large part of a pitch. But they’re more than just fluff.

“Clients should pay particular attention to the case studies consultancies include in their credentials and presentations,” says Volmink.

She explains that the case studies that are presented to you should have been carefully selected by the agency to highlight their understanding of and success in your target audience. Case studies should also showcase their expertise in the services that you are looking to appoint them for, says Volmink.

“In addition, these case studies presented should clearly demonstrate the consultancy’s ability to deliver ideas that are based on strategic and deliver tangible results,” says Volmink.

Have you appointed a PR agency recently? How did you make your decision? Let us know in the comments below.