Procurement Secrets for Selecting the Best Automotive PR Agency

In a recent post, we showed why using the lowest hourly rates was the absolute worst way to choose a PR agency partner.

For a number of reasons, the PR agency with the lowest rates usually ends up costing the client the most – in terms of wasted time, frustration and lackluster results.

So, what are the best factors in choosing the best PR agency partner?

The enlightened in-direct procurement executive looks beyond hourly rates to take a systemic view of total value offered by PR agencies.

Sure, it’s a lot more work to compare and evaluate the credentials, effectiveness and value proposition of different PR agencies.

But when you do the work correctly, it’s a lot more rewarding for your company. And it can lead to developing a long-term partnership with your PR agency that can literally pay dividends for decades.

Clues in determining the value a PR agency brings

There are a number of clues related to experience and expertise that indicate the total value that an agency can help create for its client. They include things like:

  • Their skills, proficiencies and strategic expertise in your industry – what are their skills and proficiencies and how do they align with your needs? Do they have experience in strategy and counsel in your sector, or are they generalists?
  • The depth of their experience in your sector – how much experience do they have in your industry/sector? Just one or two clients? Just a few projects? Are they all in in your industry, or do they just dabble?
  • The breadth of their knowledge of your audience and their pain points – How well do they know your audience and the industry pain points? Have they faced similar situations to yours with other clients in your space or are they newbies?
  • Their understanding of the industry trends and issues – do they follow and understand the key trends and issues in your sector, and how they relate to your business?
  • The relationships they have with media, thought leaders, conference organizers and influencers – do they have existing relationships with the important media and event organizers in your industry, or will they have to start from scratch?
  • The length of their relationships with their other clients in your sector – Are their relationships 5 or more years long, or is there a lot of churn, which can be a sign of lackluster service?

Why are these clues important?

If the agency has proven it already has the skills, proficiencies and strategic expertise in your sector or category, it will require less work and less time for your marketing team to direct the work.

This means your marketing staff has more time and energy for other projects and activities, and can be more effective.

  • If the agency has deep experience in your sector, your people won’t have to waste time educating them, or waste time waiting for them to do research to try to get up to speed.

They know what works and what doesn’t. So, they can hit the ground running.

  • If the agency already understands your target audience and their pain points, they can get right into the strategy, messaging, differentiation and tactical execution.

They can also bring new insights and perspectives that you may not have.

  • If the PR firm already has established deep relationships with reporters, event organizers, influencers and thought leaders, it can save a lot of time and effort and make sure you get consideration in a cluttered and confused marketplace.

Many PR agencies claim that having relationships with reporters really doesn’t help a client to get its story told. Those are usually agencies that don’t actually have a lot of great media relationships.

While it’s true that a relationship alone won’t ensure that a poor story will get coverage, it’s also true that a good relationship with a reporter or editor can help your story rise above the competition in being considered.

This is especially true in today’s world where PR people outnumber journalists by 7 to 1, and journalists are flooded daily with 20 times more pitches than they could ever conceivably pursue.

  • If the agency has strong existing industry relationships, they can often get something done in just a few hours that another agency without those relationships could never make happen – no matter how much time and effort they spend.

That means they can dedicate more time to generating more results for you.

Here’s a recent example of the value of existing relationships:

One of our auto-tech clients wanted their CTO to speak at the world’s largest B2B trade show (and now the world’s best automotive technology show), CES.

They indicated that this was a high-value opportunity, and that it was worth more to them in terms of exposure and credibility than they could get with a $50,000 sponsorship. 

While hundreds of other companies lusted after the few CES speaking spots, we were able to secure a panel slot for that CTO with just a few emails … because of a trusting relationship our agency had built up over 20 years with one of the CES panel organizers.

Now, another agency that had not invested the time and effort to develop that kind of relationship probably would not have been able to secure that panel opportunity … even if they had worked through a month of Sundays, costing the client hundreds of hours.

Another clue in evaluating a PR agency is its client tenure

If your agency has many long-term relationships with its clients of 15, 20, and even 30 years, that’s a great sign.

That’s because, in the PR world, the typical client-agency relationship lasts about three years – about the same tenure of a corporate chief marketing officer or chief communications officer.

Long-term PR agency relationships indicate the clients continue to see value in the agency. So, it transcends just being a transactional relationship, and the agency becomes an extension of the marketing director’s team.

As time goes on, both parties trust and invest more in each other. And the longer the relationship thrives, the more efficient the client-agency relationship can be – meaning you continue to get increasingly more value for your PR dollars.

The agency gets to know the client’s preferences, messaging and operating style, and the client has fewer headaches, less stress, and more time to take on more projects that can generate even more results.

There’s more satisfaction. Better results. And joy.

Watch for the next installment in our Procurement blog series.

Author: Jim Bianchi

Jim is president and founder of Bianchi PR. He has more than 40 years of B2B PR experience in corporate and agency settings and specializes in the automotive and mobility sectors, having worked with several of the world’s top automotive suppliers, consultants and mobility tech start-ups.

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