In today’s lean staffing environment, many corporate communications leaders feel like they have half the people they need, and twice the work they can handle. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps your team doesn’t have all of the specialized skills required. And you have several key initiatives looming that will require focused attention and expertise.
This scenario is the new norm in the corporate communications world. It also is where the right external communications firm can amplify the power of your team, by serving as a seamless extension of your in-house resources.
When looking for the right outside resource, here are a few things to keep in mind:
* Match your needs with the firm’s capabilities. An agency that is a leader in media relations may not be the best fit for a community relations project.
* Understand the agency’s area of expertise, and beware of those that profess, “We do it all!” Ask them what their core competency is – surprisingly, I’ve seen some agency heads absolutely fumble this question, and I’ve moved on to look at other firms.
* Bigger is not always better. Your project may indeed require a large, global firm, and they can bring significant resources to you. But often, a smaller agency whose expertise aligns with your project can provide you with tailored service and superior results.
* Ensure you know specifically who will be working on your account. This helps to avoid the scenario where a senior practitioner sells the work, yet you’re served by a junior account rep.
* Date before you get married. That is, try the firm out on a project basis before you commit to a broader, deeper relationship.
When working with your outside firm, here are some ways you can ensure their success – and yours
* Just as you would with a new employee, invest the time early on to educate the firm about your company, leadership, strategy, products, etc. The quicker they are up to speed, the sooner they can begin to create value for you.
* Make sure you have a clear set of objectives, scope of work, timetable, budget, reporting structure, required billing detail, etc. in place. Establishing this operational framework up front with your agency will help you avoid issues later on.
* Agree on what success looks like and the metrics you will use to measure it.
* Schedule regular update meetings to discuss the status of your program or project as well as any issues or roadblocks.
* Provide your firm with direct access to your business leaders as needed. This will free you and your in-house team for other work, while helping the agency to establish needed working relationships and credibility.
* Stay engaged. Continue to provide regular oversight and feedback, share company information and updates, and establish a working partnership.