But are they really? What if they don't have either?
Tom Formeski from Silicon Valley Watcher makes a point that PR firms who sell social media services should also have a blog of their own. He intends to take "a regular look at PR firms and their blogs or lack of them."
My friend and PR guru Joe Thornley from Fallis Thornley takes it a step further by insisting that PR firms should be constantly experimenting and returning value to the community.
I want to take it a step further again by suggesting a few steps a client can take when evaluating a public relations and marketing firm or consultancy to handle its social media efforts:
- Participation. Look for a wide range of social media participation by both principals and employees of an agency/consultant
- Case Studies. Ask for case studies about how the agency/consultant helped its clients run a successful social media campaign, look at the results from a business perspective
- Failures. Ask the agency to discuss campaigns they worked on that didn't work and why. This is a new area for communicators and some campaigns will work better than others, is the agency or consultant learning from mistakes?
- Visibility. Google the names of the principals of the agency/consultancy and the company name to see what comes up. Are they involved in social networks? Does it seem they are well regarded by their peers in comments and blog posts?
- Breadth. Does the agency or consultant only offer social media services, or do they also have a background in delivering solid public relations and/or marketing campaigns? This is a young field, what prior experience does the team bring to the table?
As social media continues to get HOT, HOT, and HOTTER clients are starting to clamor for their agencies to help them understand the trends. As a result, agencies are looking to either acquire or learn these skills.
The problem will come when the client starts looking for results and integrated strategy. They want to know, "what is in it for my company?"
I agree with the list of questions that Jeremiah Owyang recently published a post that listed the questions companies are asking as they work toward engaging in social media. Before they choose any meaningful long-term integration of social media strategies they will want to clearly understand the return on investment.
The agencies that can deliver a meaningful answer to these questions will be the long-term winners.
Photo by Butterfly Sunshine