Parallel universe. I work for an organisation and I’m eager to enlist the help of an agency to help me communicate around the issues that matter to me in Brussels. I know that picking the right agency might help to ensure that the public, regulatory and media playing fields treat me fairly, but I want to make absolutely sure that I pick the agency that’s right for me.
What would I look out for?
- An agency whose starting points are my business and/or communications objectives, not the size of its address book. 20 former Commission officials or MEP assistants on your staff? I don’t care. I’d rather you understand what I’m trying to achieve and set that as your starting point.
- Is the agency committed to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs?) It must be, even though I wouldn’t expect them to be defined by the first meeting. The commitment matters though, because in an unconventional and unpredictable place like public-policy land it’s too easy just say “oh well, it was out of our control, what could we have done?” With a commitment to KPIs you show that you’re really keen to win campaigns, not just make money from them.
- I’d want the people who I meet to be intellectually curious, and passionate about communications and politics. They have to be if they need to learn a new sector and a new organisation from scratch and do their job well. Plus they’d be more interesting to work with and more likely to pursue my account as an intellectual challenge rather than simply looking to tick boxes and send invoices.
- Must be firm believers in integration: an agency should consider all tactics – be it advocacy, media work, online campaigning – equally important parts of the same parcel i.e. my organisation achieving its goals. It might be an expert in one area, but it should never think that area is more important than all others.
- Sounds obvious, but I’d really want an agency to make an effort when I meet them. If it’s using regurgitated material, only tells me about existing client work or thinks it’s a shoe-in because of its reputation, I’d not be impressed.
Some questions I’d ask:
- What are my key issues?
- How would you approach them?
- What would you do to really understand my issues?
- What’s the work you’re most proud of?
- Who would work on the account?