Repairing the broken PR agency review process

Traditional client meetings and RFPs rarely reveal which agency is truly best for the task at hand. Here are some ways to get a truer picture.

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The typical process that guides organizations in evaluating PR agencies and ultimately choosing one is broken.

It was broken when I participated in my first new business meeting—wicker furniture, of all things; we did not win—in 1983. It’s still broken today.

In the vast majority of PR agency reviews, the process puts a premium on showmanship and presentation skills, secondary traits when it comes to an agency’s ability to execute a campaign month after month after month.

What does completing an RFP that could double as a Ph.D. thesis really tell you about a given agency? In many agencies, the people who handle the RFP gauntlet have no relationship to the account team. As a result, the RFP often reveals little in predicting how an agency will do once it starts executing the program.

Organizations should not perceive “execution” as a commodity. Every agency is capable of handling a news event, but the list dwindles when it comes to driving results on an ongoing basis.

I sympathize with our corporate brothers and sisters who face down a fire hose of demands from stakeholders. While they intellectually recognize the importance of securing the right PR agency partner, finding the time for deep due diligence is another matter.

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