Global communications can be a challenge when you don’t have local teams that can handle projects in your target countries. In these cases, an agency can be an excellent option. Using an agency can allow you to cultivate a local presence with personal contacts within the media, and can provide someone to handle local events and media inquiries.
Whether you wish to work with an agency located in your home country or work directly with one in a target country, the process for determining which one is best is universal: Get quotes, interview the candidates and select the agency that works best for you.
Never done this before? Not a problem. Here is a sample of items to include in the Request for Proposal (RFP) you would send to each agency you are interviewing. Your actual document will reflect your company policies and procedures, but this checklist should get you started.
Ask Specific Questions: Be sure to ask questions about the agency’s history and general capabilities, as well as what kind of language abilities they have. Be aware that unless you ask for a degree of fluency, they may put down language abilities that are not as fluent as you wish. Some sample questions that can be included are as follows:
- Please provide an overview of your company’s history and background, including date of founding, size, number of direct employees, number of contracted employees (if applicable), location of offices, countries covered, and whether public/investor relations is your primary business.
- If you have operations in multiple countries, please include information on how you manage projects across the region on behalf of your clients.
- If you have partners in other countries, please detail this information.
- Describe the language capabilities of account management staff, and classify on the following scale: Bilingual, Fluent, Working Knowledge, Limited Knowledge.
- Describe the points of contact that would be assigned to the account and provide bios if available.
- Describe your project management approach and requirements.
- Describe the social media capabilities of your agency.
- Describe the steps you take to protect files and other company information from corruption, virus infection and access by unauthorized parties.
- Please describe your company’s non-disclosure policy.
- Please provide a list of your top three customers and the percentage of your business that they represent.
- Please detail your hours of operation and after-hours/holiday coverage policy.
Give Specific Details: Be specific about all the information you need the agency to know regarding their management of your account or your project. The more specific you can be, the better the bid, and the less likely you will be surprised. Here are some tips:
- Separate out each country’s requirements if you are interviewing an agency to cover multiple markets.
- Make sure you list every job you wish the agency to provide to you. In some countries, it is common practice that if you do not have each job specified in the proposal, there may be extra fees for ‘non scope’ items that are higher than they would have been if specified in the bid.
- Specify the level of creativity you wish the agency to use in their campaigns. Ask about how the agency takes cultural issues into account. This is especially important when an agency is working in multiple markets.
- Ask for examples of other campaigns that you can view.
Plan For Crisis: No one wants to even think this could happen, but you have to plan for it. If the unthinkable does occur, you want to make sure your agency can step in and work within your corporate requirements.
- Request that the proposal or quote include how they would handle a crisis for you. Pay attention to this section: It will tell you a lot about how they’ll handle anything unexpected that you throw at them.
- Look at what they would include as a part of their crisis management services, and who in their company would handle it. It should be a senior member of the firm, not your day to day contact.
- Be sure to specify you don’t want this in the retainer, but as an extra. Depending on the country, some local agencies will include this automatically.
- Ask for examples of past efforts with other clients.
Understand The Pricing: When working with an agency outside of your own country, currency changes are one of the items that can be costly. It will usually save you money to ask the agency to quote in the local currency.
- Request a detailed fee structure that specifies any currency changes for projects in different countries.
- Ask the agency what extra fees may be charged and for what services. They should specify any rush, emergency, or weekend fees that may be incurred, as well as whether holiday or weekend work will be required.
- Ask for a detail of what is included in the retainer, if one is included. Some agencies in Asia, for example, include many services in their usual retainers that you may be thinking should be in the itemized extra charges.
- Be sure to ask for detailed information on pricing for any translation services that will be included. Ask for a per word rate for each language, and ask for turnaround time guarantees. If you anticipate that weekend and emergency/rush pricing will be needed, include that request as well. Also ask them to specify whether any machine-translation aids are being used, and if so, which ones.
Other Information: Don’t limit your questions to the suggestions above. Be specific about any other information you feel will be relevant to your decision and ask the agency to do the same.
Finding the right agency can be time-consuming; however, it also prevents issues down the road. I hope this checklist helps you build the agency relationship your company needs.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Managing Global Communications: The Agency RFP
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