Incoming CMOs will often have to sift through incumbent agencies when they take a new position.
While agencies often view these appointments with trepidation because CMOs will often have existing favorite agency relationships, they should actually view them in exactly the opposite way. Many agencies are perennial underachievers when it comes to their own PR, and these appointments are opportunities to demonstrate fantastic work.
Conversely, it's also an opportunity for the CMO in question to review the PR agency relationship. How do CMOs know if they are getting value for money? How do CMOs figure out what separates the wheat from the chaff? Here are four questions I’ve been proud to answer as an agency director.
1. What are your media contacts in XX sector like? It sounds obvious, but to have contacts, you need to talk to the media in the first place. In an age of news wires and emails, this isn't always an activity that takes place.
Building these contacts is not part of a bygone age of PR; it's an essential part of the job. There are more ways than ever to nurture these relationships. Your PR team should know who's writing about what and when.
2. What's the ROI on the work you've done for us? Public relations is fantastic for raising credibility and awareness and is therefore critical to a major part of the purchasing attribution model. So why does this question make agency directors feel nauseous? Because if measurement isn’t in place from day one, it can be hard to gauge PR effectiveness.
Expect your agency to ask for analytics access to measure the daily/monthly metrics. But also expect questions on your business strategies and objectives. If they align PR goals with your business goals, this will give the agency the best chance of making a measurable contribution to your business success.
We enjoy frank conversations with clients’ sales teams about how we can support them. They often reveal barriers to purchase that PR is fantastic at breaking down. If, after said conversations, your agency says that lack of market awareness in the XX vertical is hampering sales and six months (and several successful vertically targeted campaigns) later, the sales team is registering increases in brand recognition and closing more deals, the ROI is plain for all to see–and the agency’s place in your roster justified.
3. How do I use PR to support SEO? If your agency isn’t aware of the massive overlaps between these two disciplines, then they've got some catching up to do.
At the bare minimum, they should keep a record of the followed links in your coverage and the domain authority of your Web site over campaign periods. Agencies without digital skills (and that means more than managing a Hootsuite account) are being found out.
4. What is it like working with us? This is a delicate question that tends to only be asked by savvier CMOs. When billable hours are being wasted chasing approvals and sign-offs or revising work based on feedback from stakeholders not involved in original briefs, then there's room for improvement client-side. Marketing officers who turn their gaze inward and assess the effectiveness of their own teams have a better chance of ensuring their tenure is successful and the agency budget is maximized. Asking this question may also help your agency uncover previously unknown roadblocks as the account team bares all.