It’s the Summer Solstice and Time for Your Agency’s Mid-Term Review

As we approach the mid-point of 2011, the smarter companies are measuring the success of their business efforts against the objectives they established at the beginning of the year. It’s a process that will repeat itself when the earth is frozen here in the northeast.  But on this Summer Solstice, the earth is soft and dry here in Boston — and in much of the U.S. — making even the measurement process a task one can easily cope with.

While CxOs and business development executives are preoccupied with measuring the operational success, or not, of the first half of this year and the Q3/Q4 strategic planning process, their corporate communications teams are likely engaged in a parallel process: evaluating the Q1 and Q2 communications effort and their plans for the second half of 2011.

For the corporate communications pro, the mid-term look back and Q3/Q4 strategic planning process will likely include a formal, or at least an informal evaluation of their public relations agency.  Although evaluation really takes place after every client-agency interaction, the kind I’m talking about is more involved.

Reviewing the performance of a public relations agency is a big deal.  There are lots of agencies, and lots of business prospects too.  But every agency principle knows it’s much harder, and expensive, to land a new client than it is to keep an existing one.

For the corporate communications team, reviewing the agency is time consuming and takes one away from the “day job” for a stretch.  And the results of the review could wind up creating even more work for the corporate communications team, i.e., a full scale agency review including the issuance of an RFP, the painstaking review of the RFP responses, the live presentations of the finalists agencies, the selection and buy-in from executives, etc., etc., etc.

But the consequences of not doing a review, when one is required, are far more severe.

But I’m here to help.  Consider these questions and points when you sit down to discuss the hits and misses of the first half of the year and the road ahead with your PR agency.

I promise, you’ll be happy you did.

  • Does your agency team know your market(s) at least as well as your internal team does?
  • Have the account team leaders taken the time to understand the pressures you face as an internal communications pro?  Or do they see the world only through their eyes?
  • Is your agency team visible?  If not, why not?  Are they too busy working on other accounts or pitching new business when they should be in your face?  Is your business important enough to them?
  • When do you see or hear from the senior-most agency executives?  Only when there’s a problem or only when there’s good news to share?  Or are they truly engaged with your business, in the trenches with the account team generating  ideas and creating insights to propel your business forward?
  • Is your agency listening to you? Or do they insist on doing things only their way and throw a hissy fit when you insist on an alternative approach?  So, is your agency part of your team or are they their own team?
  • Does your agency do what they say they are going to do? Is their follow through as strong as it was during the first 30 – 45 days of the account — the honeymoon — or has it tapered over time?  Does this mean your agency team has become too comfortable?

In the best agency/client relationships, any issue that comes up during a review shouldn’t be a surprise to either party.  In the better relationships, communications are open and frequent enough so that major issues are dealt with as they erupt.

But in too many agency/client relationships, issues are put in the parking lot by one or both parties hoping they will disappear on their own. They rarely do.

What’s the relationship with your agency like?

It’s the mid-term and a good time to ask.

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