Whether you need expert advice, help with brainstorming new ideas, or even simply additional pair of arms to work on a special campaign, hiring a communications agency can allow your business to reach new heights.
The selection process for an agency requires some reflection and planning. Here are some simple tips to help you on your journey to find the perfect team that will meet your expectations.
1. Determine your communications needs
The best results are always achieved when you know what you are looking for. It’s better to consult experienced professionals who understand the Quebec market in depth. Obtaining support from an agency can be a terrific solution in the short or the long term.
However, there are several advantages to work with the same communications experts over a certain period. Indeed, once you have completed the knowledge transfer, disclosed risks and issues, business goals and shared details about your senior leaders, your external team can truly serve its role as advisors and strategists and generate significant added value.
It is also to your advantage to approach an agency that will have the potential to carry out many of your mandates. When the unexpected happens, you won't need to provide context every time because the right agency will be already equipped to support you.
With this in mind, it is sometimes better to invest your time with a single agency, or limit yourself to two, in order to save on costs and time!
2. Prepare a brief
A brief is a document that contains all the information required for the mandate and describes your needs. An effective brief also allows you to communicate your needs to the few agencies that you have pre-selected.
This way, these agencies can provide you with relevant recommendations that meet your expectations. The brief should include the following elements:
- The desired services: i.e. media relations only, strategic advice, issues management, etc.
- The desired outcomes: i.e. the goal, objectives, key performance indicators (KPIs), etc.
- The duration: a one-off project or a monthly retainer?
- The allocated budget or the project scope: the agency can suggest a range of prices, detailing what is included in each of these budgets.
3. Determine the search process to find an agency
Depending on the nature of the mandate, the search process for a communications agency can be carried out using different approaches; simply search on the internet or rely on recommendations of your professional entourage.
If you decide to issue a formal request for proposal (RFP), you should specify, as much as possible, the mandate, the challenges and your expectations.
If you are unable to identify your objectives clearly, it is probably because the mandate is too broad. By developing specific objectives, it will be easier for the agencies to find ideas and approaches that will meet your expectations while respecting your budget.
No matter what research process you opt for, it's crucial to understand how the communications agency can help you, and whether their values and corporate culture can match with yours.
4. Initiate contact with communication agencies
You can contact a few selected agencies that seem to match your criteria and send them your briefing document.
You should prioritize doing a first meeting by phone or videoconference. Following this introduction meeting, the agency can provide you with a service proposal that can help you choose the right team. Make sure that the selected agencies do not already work with a competitor within your industry!
If you decide to issue a formal request for proposal (RFP), it is generally recommended that a maximum of three or four agencies be invited. After reviewing the proposals, pick your two favorite agencies and invite them for a formal presentation of their recommendations. You will be able to evaluate the “cultural fit” during this last phase.
5. Choose the right agency
Once you have reached your decision, it is recommended that you first notify the winning agency and proceed to sign a detailed agreement. Then, it is advisable to contact the runner-up agencies to thank them for their proposal and provide feedback on why they were not selected.
Right off the start, you can set up an evaluation grid to make sure expectations are clear on both sides.
If you would like more details regarding the range of services offered by a communications agency, do not hesitate to contact Capital-Image's team of experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.