When do you fire your PR agency?

Getting rid of your PR agency may be the best move you can make — or your worst. However, sometimes the decision is made for you by your firm’s actions.

Name agencies typically want a long commitment of 12 months and 30 days notice before termination of a contract.   To be realistic, you should have a feel for how well your PR firm is doing at about three separate benchmarks: 30 days, 90 days, and 6 months into the contract.

Within a month, you should have a good feel for how the agency operates and it should have a reasonable understanding of who you want to reach out to and why.  The agency should be able to draft a press release upon your behalf without major editing and if they don’t “get” what publications and analysts they should be pitching by the end of the month, well, it might be time for both sides to reconsider the relationship.

Three months in, the agency should have secured briefings with key voices/analysts in the space.  Back in the day, this might have been exclusively big-name publications such as Telephony, but in these days of Google, a good focused blog might be worth just as much (if not more) than a short paragraph on someone’s Name website.

During this 90 day period, your agency should be laying the groundwork for future progress — don’t expect to be in the Wall Street Journal unless you have a name on the board that might garner some attention. Not every briefing is going to result in a story, but some briefings and announcements should result in some stories during that 90 day period.

If you already have pre-established relationships with the media (i.e. reporters you talk to/know), they can provide some independent feedback as to how the firm is positioning you: Are they getting out releases on time? Are they emailing useful pitches?  Are they presenting the Bigger Story about your firm?

Six months into the relationship, you should have a good idea if you are getting your money’s worth from your PR agency.  Take a look at how much per month you are being billed, look at the press and analysts briefings you are getting, and figure out if you need to go forward, fine tune, or dump.

If you do dump your PR firm, who in your corporation will manage the media and analyst relationships going forward? Will it be a dedicated PR person on staff? A part-time task onto a marketing person or executive assistant? Some combination?

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