Every internal PR and marketing person has been there before. Your boss tells you to find a PR agency and it better be one that can deliver. For many companies, particularly in more technical industries like AI, security or enterprise software, that can often be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
We sat down with our B2B aficionado Juliana Allen, SVP at March, to ask her views on how B2B companies in AI, security and beyond can be most successful in finding their perfect agency match.
1. Where should I start?
The PR search is different and unique for each busines. Some companies prefer to go through a more formal RFP process with multiple agencies and a series of rounds to get to “the one,” while others prefer to keep the pool smaller with a more informal approach centred around in-depth interviews and creative thinking exercises. Whichever approach you take is fine, as long as:
- you end up with an agency that understands your business, industry and technology
- you feel confident they can help you raise awareness, impact, and consideration for the business
- you feel you can work well with them from a personal and professional standpoint
2. If I take the RFP route, what should be included in that?
The RFP should include all of the necessary information an agency would need to know to be a successful partner. Including:
- company background
- business and marketing goals and objectives
- desired outcomes of the partnership
- what’s important to you in a partner
- relationship scope and budgets
- next steps and timing
This may seem like a lot but it gives agencies the best chance of creating a successful proposal for you that is based off of an understanding of your business, where you’ve been, and where you’re looking to go in the future.
3. How do I determine a shortlist of agencies?
Before you can create a shortlist of agencies, you first need to think about what criteria is important to you as a business. Do you need specialized expertise in your field of tech? If you want to be known for not just what your tech can do for the world, but how exactly it works, you need an agency that understands both the nitty-gritty of the technology itself and potential broad issues surrounding the industry. Other factors that can play-in are size, culture, etc.
Once you know that, asking for recommendations from people you trust in the industry, or even doing a little digging to see who works with companies whose PR you admire (check the bottom of press releases) can be a great way to start building your roster of potential partners. Reaching out to your LinkedIn network and asking for suggestions can also be a great way to get the process going.
Depending on the number of suggestions you get, many companies will host 30-minute intro calls with each agency to narrow down their list of who gets the RFP or advances to the next round. Agencies dedicate a lot of time and effort to these proposals, so it’s best to only have the ones you’re most interested in join the RFP process.
4. It can be hard for outsiders to understand our technology – which is why we need help! How can I be sure this agency will be able to translate our value?
If you want to feel confident in your shortlist of agencies, make sure to ask questions during your intro calls that relate directly to your industry and technology. Ask them to talk about what challenges, trends or opportunities they see in your industry and with your technology. Is it clear they know their stuff? This will help narrow down that pitch list and boost confidence in your options.
When it comes to the proposal, look for case studies about similar technologies and challenges. Does the agency’s approach sound like something that you can get behind? Were they able to create meaningful and impactful results? Don’t hesitate to ask questions, whether it’s following up on the proposal before selecting who makes it to the pitch round, or taking extra time during the pitch round to make sure you have a clear picture of what the partnership would look like.
5. What’s the most important thing to keep in mind during this process?
At the end of the day your search is really about finding someone that you can trust to deliver smart, honest counsel; impact and results. Someone with an unmatched ability to create unique comms programs that will not only get you noticed, but also drive buyer action. How do you know you can trust an agency? They’ve been around the block – they have years of experience with clients in your industry and can provide references. They have a strong bench of engaged senior leaders who can offer open, informed input based on decades of familiarity with brands at all stages. And a few industry awards attached to their name that can attest to their track records at delivering results for clients doesn’t hurt either.
At the same time, you want to work with people that align with your company values, and for many companies, their culture too. This partner will become a valuable member of your team and someone you’ll rely and depend a lot on – as well as spend a lot of time with, so you need to click with them and like them as people.
Want to chat with Juliana or our other PR & marketing experts about your comms needs? Reach out!