There are many drawbacks to using PR agencies to conduct analyst relations – not the least that most analysts hate dealing with agency staff. Sometimes, however, communications and IT vendors have no choice but to farm out some analyst-related activities. To minimize the chance of agency staff causing problems with the analysts, vendors need to carefully evaluate whether or not a PR agency is actually competent in analyst relations before hiring them.
A technique SageCircle has developed is asking a series of questions in the form of scenarios about AR situations. The responses to the scenarios can then be graded for compliance with AR best practices and insights as to how the analysts work. As always, it is important to weight the questions because some will be more important than others. In addition, it is critical that a standard evaluation framework be established so that responses from different agencies will be graded consistently.
The killer questions should not just be asked of the agency’s senior executive that is trying to win the business, but also the staff that will actually be doing the work. Reluctance by the agency to introduce you to the staff should raise red flags about the breadth and depth of AR expertise in the firm.
The first killer question to ask the PR agency rainmaker and staff is…
Wait. Stop the presses. I can’t put the killer questions in this blog post because savvy PR agencies would study them and come up with slick answers. Vendors should develop their own scenarios or use the set that SageCircle has developed.
- Generate a set of killer questions that reflect the AR activities that you need to outsource
- Develop a weighting system so you can give some questions more priority than others
- Generate a scoring system so all firm responses will be consistently rated
- Create a formal request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP) that will be sent to the agencies that explains the process you will be using but not provide the killer questions
* SageCircle Advisory clients, either Annual or Blocks of Hours, can request a copy of the killer questions and the SageToolTM “Evaluating PR Agencies for AR Activities” for recording the PR agency answers. In addition, clients can set up an inquiry to go through the process and discuss each of the scenarios and how to modify them to reflect the client’s situation.
Bottom Line: Vendors should systematically determine whether or not PR agencies have the true expertise, attitude and approach for conducting AR. Investing effort up front in developing appropriate tools for evaluating PR agencies will prevent poor performance that could take time to correct or could even damage relationships with the analysts.
Question: Vendors – When evaluating whether a PR agency has the right expertise to handle your AR activities do you use a formal process?