Social media marketers and PR agencies: 9 things to look for before hiring them

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With the current boom in online publishing and micro-blogging, many creative, digitally-savvy young Nigerians (mostly undergraduates and fresh grads) are now turning their social media hobbies into marketing businesses.

Also, more and more brands are beginning to directly engage these ‘influencers’ for marketing campaigns, incorporating them into their firms’ overall digital strategies and bypassing traditional agencies along the way.

Alarmists would say the traditional ‘agency’ model is headed for extinction, but the present lack of standardisation, absence of quality control and often-seen crude execution in the ‘influencer marketing’ world on social, still leaves much room for smart agencies to thrive in this new age.

So, for brand managers and C-suite marketers desperately searching for that ‘endangered species’ of agencies who possess the much-extolled values of old, spiced up with the pizzazz, swag and craze of the new social age, here are some 9 things to look out for when trying to identify the right agency.

1.) What’s their history?

Who have they worked for? Ask them for case studies and research their past work. What do people say about them? These will give an insight into what they have offered in the past. The Internet never forgets. Google them.

2.) Who leads their team?

Who is the Steve Jobs to their Apple, the Jeff Bezos to their Amazon and Richard Branson to their Virgin. What is the profile of the founder and what are his antecedents?

A look into the kind of leader they have may tell you the kind of culture prevalent in their system.

3.) How young is their team?

In most cases these days, the younger, the better. Young communicators find it easier to keep up with trends, understand millennial markets and are more agile, flexible and crazy – which is usually a good thing.

Let them pour all that youthful exuberance into your brief and see magic happen. A young team also comes with less baggage brought on by ‘Life’ – they can work longer hours, are eager to travel and are more open to trying out new stuff.

4.) Are they specialists in your industry?

Okay, so the agency has done some great B2C work for FMCGs in Lagos, but how will they cope with communication for the B2B service your company offers in Abuja? Be very sure they have capabilities in your niche market and the audience you want to reach.

5.) How ‘digital’ are they?

Hello, it’s 2016 – Drones, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Facebook Live, Artificial Intelligence, Chat-bots, Autonomous cars, Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, Kimojis, Lemonade, Drake memes, Damn Daniel…

This is really a no-brainer.

6.) How transparent are they?

Your agency doesn’t have to reveal everything they do and how they run their day-to-day business. However, some sincerity, honesty and openness on their part is necessary. When they act all too secretive and closed, then keep your wallet closed. They shouldn’t be getting your money. Be sure of what they are promising to offer. Don’t take random generalities. Get as close as possible to specific KPIs from their proposals and budgets.

7.) Are they using their own medicine?

“She who intends to make one a garment, must first be assessed for the type she is wearing on herself.” – Yoruba Genius, AD 980

Any agency worth its salt will offer themselves some of their own services. You can’t claim expertise, when your own brand doesn’t ooze that same value that you are pitching to a client. That’s a scam.

8.) Are they delivering results?

So, months after engaging your agency, with many retainer payments under the bridge, all you still get are stories of “it’s coming”, no concrete ROI to report to management, and no deliverables forthcoming, then it may be that you’ve entered a bad marriage or better still, what Nigerians call “one-chance”.

Hopefully, your lawyers wrote a pre-nuptial agreement in the wedding contract? Please fire the agency, before your customers or worse still, your boss, fires you!

9.) Do they even listen to you?

It is true that you hired the agency because they have skills you do not have. However, this is still your brand, your product, your baby, about which you know more than anyone else on earth.

This single reason is why your agency must yet take cues and direction from you, no matter how wild they want to run or how many creative geniuses they put on your account. Give them room to shine and flourish, but don’t let them forget who the real boss is.

You pay the piper sir/ma, please dictate (most of) the tune.


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