Managing Your PR Agency (from a pet owner’s perspective)

1. Feed them. House-train them What that means:  You pay your PR agency to do what you don’t have the time and/or resources to do. They are an extension of your department, so install an open door. Brief them regularly on company results, messages, strategy. Trust them. But also educate them about your corporate culture so that you’re not setting them (and you) up for a misstep should they fail to understand how your company works, what you focus is on. 2. Keep them on a leash. Well, figuratively speaking. That means, communicate. Regular communications will enhance your agency’s ability to spend their hours working on exactly what you want them to. Calendar regular conference calls and meetings and stick to the scheduled times. Be respectful of the fact that your agency has other clients (even though a classy agency won’t remind you of that), so they struggle to manage the hours in the day. 3. Buy the best breed you can afford. It may be a buyers’ market for many consulting services in a recession, but be mindful of the fact that smart, well-educated, savvy people are still hard to find. Select the best agency available for the job and USE their brains. That’s what you’re paying for. It’s easy to get into the habit of handing over your most mundane work because, let’s face it, somebody has to do it, and the buck stops with you. But you’ll look good—no, GREAT—to your managers when you bring creative, strategically thoughtful ideas to their table that help the company succeed. 4. “Man’s [and Woman’s] Best Friend” The operative word here is “trust.” With time and open, honest communication, your agency becomes part of a mutually beneficially relationship that neither of you can do without. You look forward to sharing with each other, brainstorming, confiding in each other, and—let’s face it—sometimes becoming even closer than you might even be with your corporate colleagues. I write this, because it’s been our experience. It starts with a non-disclosure agreement, grows the first time your agency screws up, and you have to have an honest discussion about what went wrong; gets stronger when they bail you out of a sticky situation that needs fixing fast; and becomes an everlasting bond when your first child graduates from high school and your agency rep calls at just the right time when you’re feeling low. 5. A little love and training go a long way. It’s easy to take your agency for granted. You’re paying them what seems like a lot for a few hours, right? I the math. I explain in another article what you’re paying for when you hire a PR agency, but what I’m talking about here is performance management. Fact (duh):  Your agency will perform only as well as you manage them. Their reward is measured by your success and how you feel about their work. Tell them occasionally that they’re appreciated, and you value their expertise, and they’ll heel, sit and fetch for as long as you’re together. On the other hand, if you’re not clicking… if your agency reps steps over you, seeks credit for, instead of eagerly handing ownership of, their contributions, send them to the pound.

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