by Michael Layne, President, Marx Layne & Company

Your organization has decided that public relations must be an important part of your marketing mix. As such, you’ve made the decision to retain the services of a public relations agency due to the cost efficiencies and expertise that comes with outsourcing the full range of communications services it provides.

Hiring a public relations agency can be daunting to the inexperienced. Of course, all public relations agencies when pitching are in the “sell mode” and it can be difficult to differentiate between one agency and another.

Knowing what questions to ask is crucial to the success of your marketing. Here are some relevant questions to ask:

  1. Experience matters. How long have you been in business, and do you have a track record of successfully working in our specific industry sector over the course of time?
  2. What do you Know? Do you understand our business or enterprise and what is your experience with clients in our sector? An agency who has never worked in your industry sector may struggle to ramp up and you may end up paying for their learning curve.
  3. Who Will Our Team Be? Who would be the team leader on our account? What other members of your agency would join the team leader on our account? Specify each team members’ pertinent industry experience and years with the agency. A high turnover rate demonstrates instability and unhappiness in the agency and will make it hard to work with over time.
  4. Diversity is Important. Describe your commitment to diversity? Diversity of experience, and cultures drives creativity and provides for a wide range of skill sets.
  5. Time is Money. How does your agency track time and how often will we receive time and expense reports? A public relations agency confident in its abilities will want you to be comfortable and is transparent and detailed with its timekeeping.
  6. An Organized Organization. How will our agency work together? An unorganized agency is a chaotic agency. Find out how you will communicate; how often you will meet and how; and what their perspective is on responsiveness.
  7. Show Me the Results. What metrics will your agency use to evaluate effectiveness? Determining a public relations campaign effectiveness has long been a nebulous task, but there are ways to judge results. Find out if the agency uses third-party software to track and analyze results and also how it defines a successful campaign.
  8. Is there an Out? What are the terms of our engagement? An agency that demands a long-term contract could be a red flag. Find out how long you are obligated to retain your relationship with the agency if you are unhappy with its work or your circumstances change.
  9. It IS the Digital Age. Does your team have a full grasp of all aspects of the digital world (content creation, programming, design, management, and analytics?)? Competency in the digital space and the use of digital assets is a must today. Find out what digital assets the agency uses to communicate and to perform its public relations work. Find out its competencies across all aspects and platforms of social media.
  10. For Your Eyes Only. Will your agency work with us in a manageable, secure environment for our critical business assets? Have you created a current, secure, manageable environment? In our digital environment, confidentiality becomes more difficult and more important.
  11. We Learn From SuccessAnd Failure. What do you consider your biggest successes… and failures?

For 35 years, Marx Layne & Company, a metro-Detroit public relations and digital media agency, has provided quality, results-oriented communications counsel to publicly traded, privately held and nonprofit clients. Its proven ability to design and launch successful public relations campaigns, develop creative communications solutions and exceed client expectations has earned the firm a reputation as a valued partner and an industry leader. For more information visit,