What to look for in a great digital PR agency

Forget that digital PR agency that’s doing nothing for you apart from taking your money – and go hunting for one that will get you results. 

By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology

Is it good business sense to invest £6,000 in a digital PR agency over two months and have practically nothing to show for it, apart from a couple of mentions on social media that you could probably manage yourself? Hardly. And you’re left “crossing your fingers” that something will happen as a result of the agency’s “work” and you’ll finally get some online traction and additional brand awareness?

That’s the unfortunate scenario told to us recently by a global software company. Frustrated by a lack of action, and results, for their spend, management were scrambling to find a replacement digital PR agency that would actually do something for them. Because, as their marketing manager told us, “digital PR is so important for our brand”. 

This company is hardly alone. Many others have hired digital PR agencies, to get them noticed online, and got little apart from a deleted bank account. As traditional PR, involving offline media like television, radio and printed newspapers and magazines, increasingly is ditched by firms and they shift to the digital version — aiming instead for coverage in internet-based media and networks — not everyone is clear how to successfully devise and execute a campaign and what the results even mean. That’s if there are any. 

If your company finds itself in this position, having spent sizeable amounts on digital PR services and have a poor or no return on investment, you may be looking around for a new agency. The following is what you should keep foremost in your mind when searching. 

Examine websites, in detail

Go through the websites of several digital PR agencies you’re interested in and see how they look and what the content is like. What’s your first impression? Is the design modern and clean or dull and outdated? If the latter, it may be best to move on, because they’re just not investing in their online shop window, which should — as a digital operation — be their prime asset. 

Is the website responsive, so you can access it properly on mobile devices as well as desktop or laptop? Are they regularly posting blogs, or was the last one from a year ago, suggesting they’re no longer paying attention and have given up on their content? And are there trust signals like client reviews, case studies outlining successful campaigns, social media links (check that they’re active on social too) and logos displaying they’re members of industry bodies (such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, of which we’re a member)?

Tiny things on a website can lead to instant mistrust, so make sure you look at sites forensically and examine aspects like a copyright symbol that’s often at the end of pages — if it’s out of date, by a year or more, it won’t give a good impression to prospective clients. Also look for:

  • Full contact details, not just a contact form, including address, email and phone number, so that people know exactly where you are.
  • A registered company number, showing that the digital PR agency is a fully formed enterprise and not some fly-by-night operator. 
  • High-quality, error-free copy throughout the website, from service pages to blogs; if they’re strewn with typos, you should probably give it a miss. 
  • An SSL certificate that displays HTTPS in the website’s URL (or a lock symbol in a browser address bar) instead of HTTP, providing secure transfer of data. 
  • Compliance with GDPR and other personal information requirements.

What’s the digital PR agency promising?

Some digital PR agencies will tell you anything to get you on board – literally promising you the moon – only for their overreaching vows to fall flat, on takeoff and when a campaign ends. Initial promises like regularly getting you onto page one of the all top national press and dazzling social media campaigns that result in rolling viral posts might seem like music to your ears, but ask yourself: Does it sound too good to be true? Often it can be. Unless the agency has a solid track record and can back up their success with case studies showing the kind of media coverage and other online results you’re after for your company and its brands. 

A particular red flag with a prospective new digital PR agency is if they promise you almost instant results, because the best strategies take time to devise and execute. So you should be looking at months, not days or even weeks. Their terms might also be telling: do they want to lock you into an annual contract or is there a monthly or quarterly option that might be better for you? That would mean the agency has to perform all that harder to retain you as a client, not sit back with your money in the bank. 

Bigger is not always better

When weighing up new digital PR agencies, it’s advisable to check out who’s running the show and who the key personnel are. Lots of agencies, Reachology included, have team pages on their websites; and if some don’t, you may be able to find out who the staff are by looking at their LinkedIn and other social media sites where employees may have their own accounts. 

Sometimes the best results come from small agencies and not those large ones with hundreds of staff and offices in cities all over the world. Small — with just a few PR experts — can mean you get the sort of individual attention you and your campaign need to prime it for success, instead of dozens of people on a team who may collectively take longer to formulate ideas, spend more time in lengthy meetings and, ultimately, cost you more. 

Is the price right?

It may be tempting to sign up with a digital PR agency with fees that are far lower than your previous ones and that, frankly, are surprising. Cheap is not always the way to go, especially when you’re after top-tier media coverage for your company. Is the agency making such an offer because they don’t have much business and are desperate for clients? If so, why? It could be the case that they’re just not good at what they do, and so, if you have that impression, walk away. 

Remember, when you hire an agency, you’re essentially getting a team of PR experts for the price of one employee in your company, and sometimes less. At the same time, you don’t want to overspend and pay way more than you expect. So shop around and see what different agencies’ rates are and decide on what’s fair, and right for you. 

Then, keeping all these aspects of appointing a digital PR firm in mind, you’ll be all set to run wildly successful campaigns that get you stellar coverage and enhance your brands’ image. 

Discover what a top-level digital PR agency can do for your company by booking a free consultation with Reachology now.

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Email: contact@reachology.co.uk

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