10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency

 

Deciding to collaborate with an outside party in any context takes time and careful consideration, especially when it comes to working with an external digital PR provider. It takes time, creativity, perseverance, and analytical skills to get results, so when you decide on the agency you want to work with, this should feel like a true partnership, and one that you are entirely happy with.

To help things along, I’ve outlined my top ten green flags to look out for when selecting a new agency partner. Hopefully, you find these helpful, regardless of how many times you’ve worked with an agency before or if this is your very first time. If I’ve missed anything off the list that you feel should be included, please do reach out as I’d love to include it.  

 

Firstly, how might you benefit from a digital PR agency?

Simply put, a digital PR agency should work with you to increase the authority of your website, making this more visible in the eyes of customers and search engines. The agency should use various organic tactics to achieve this, which help to increase the awareness of your brand and, with other efforts, increase sales.  

Any type of business can benefit from investing in digital PR, however, if you’re looking at digital PR compared to other channels, my recommendation would be to benchmark yourself against your organic competition and see where the gaps are in terms of authority and organic visibility.

If your competitors are catching you up or are well ahead of you, it may be time to look at this channel. Businesses may also look to invest in digital PR if all other areas within the SEO mix have made as many gains as they can, for example, you are ranking fantastically for your chosen keywords, improvements have been made to the technical side of your website and the area left to improve on is then logically the authority side of things.

Lastly, you may look at digital PR and authority building if your website has seen a drop in organic rankings. This could be due to the latest core update from Google, which are made several times a year without notice to improve the user experience for those using the search engine.  

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
1. They spend time to get to know you and your business.

Getting to know who you will be working with and what their business needs are is arguably one of the most crucial parts of the relationship. If you are speaking with an agency and they are interested in the marketing channels you have previously utilised, how you feel these performed and then why you have decided to explore the world of digital PR, or why you would like to switch agencies, you’re onto a great start.

Every single business is different and so is their marketing strategy, so if a digital PR agency really wants to spend time with you to understand your business and why your customers want to purchase from you, even better.  

2. They create a bespoke strategy based on your needs.

If a digital PR agency has taken time to create a bespoke strategy for you, based on your short medium and long-term goals, this is certainly a green flag. To create the strategy, the digital PR agency should be asking you heaps of questions around your business goals, the type of topics you’re happy to cover in the media, any no-go topics, the products you want to target or specific categories on your website you’d like to focus on.

On top of this, digital PR’s need to get to know who your experts are, and whether they are happy to provide media commentary and with that, establish an efficient sign-off process with you so they can pitch your experts to the media quickly.  

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
3. They know their stuff.

An effective digital PR agency should be experts in their field and be able to communicate this knowledge to you. They should be able to show how their work is impacting your brand and website, how the media are responding to campaign work, and the type of concepts which will work best for you and your brand.

Digital PR is so much more now than simply building a link, so a truly brilliant agency will consider everything from the type of messaging you want to push from your brand, right through to how trends and breaking stories can impact you. The best digital PR agencies will also advise you on the type of publications you should be targeting, based on your business goals and the audiences you have in mind.  

️4. They are clear with expectations.

If a digital PR agency promises you results overnight, I’d recommend looking elsewhere or asking further questions on how they expect to achieve these results. It takes around three months to see results when working with a new digital PR agency, as they need time to get to grips with your product, audiences and communicate your brand to the media. It’s also worth noting that Journalists are incredibly busy, and regardless of how fantastic your campaign is, getting their attention is tough.

PR Week conducted a study and found that as of Q3 2023, Journalists responded to less than 3% of pitches from PRs. That being said, brilliantly executed campaigns can land links and press mentions right away, but this isn’t going to always happen, and that’s OK. Here at Bonded, we look at the impact of our work over a quarterly period, as often the media can go quiet at certain times of the year, especially around the festive season and summer holidays when Journalists are taking a break. This also allows the team time for the initial outreach of the campaign, follow-ups, reangling and the opportunity to try different tactics.  

It can also take time for search engines to crawl and index the links back to your website, so your rankings may not always improve straight away. The key thing here is to look for agencies that communicate clearly what is doable, given the budget you have allocated to them, and how they plan to execute based on the strategy and timeframe. I’d also be aware of agencies who simply say yes to everything. You have decided to work with them based on their expertise, so if you come to them with an idea which simply won’t produce results or isn’t doable and they agree, this is something to be wary of.  

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
5. They don’t talk black hat practices.

In the world of SEO, you might hear the phrases ‘white hat’ or ‘black hat.’ ‘White hat’ SEO is where the work is delivered in a way that abides by the principles set out by search engines and delivers the best possible experience to the user. Whereas ‘black hat’ SEO’s may use techniques which are there to simply manipulate search engines and produce short-term results.

In reference to link building via digital PR, black hat techniques could range from paying for links (a big no-no), utilising link networks, link exchanges or stuffing hidden links onto webpages. These results can actually harm your website and have little value outside of placing the link.  

6. They are clear about how they have spent their time and what they have achieved.

Digital PR agencies should be clear on how they have spent your time, and what they have achieved. I typically like to show clients the entire workflow, from planning, research, and campaign creation, right through to the websites we’ve pitched and how the media has responded to this work. On top of this, agencies should be providing clients with a transparent report which shows how their activity relates back to the KPIs and strategy. This report could include everything from number of placements, publication type, brand messaging, increase in organic traffic and any conversions or sales via your website. KPIs should be agreed upon upfront and if not met, the agency should bring an overview as to any blockers or thoughts on why a campaign didn’t quite land.  

I’d also be cautious about reporting for reporting’s sake, too. So, if it doesn’t matter to you how many page views your campaign has generated (for example), don’t include them. What you should be aiming for is a transparent overview of the work and the impact this has delivered. You might also want to ask for a slightly condensed report you can share with your finance team, or the budget holder (if this isn’t you), so you can report back on ROI to your internal teams.  

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
7. If things aren’t going as expected, they offer a solution.

As spoken about earlier, not everything is going to land with the media, and that’s OK. It happens to the best of us. If you are working with an agency and they experience a blocker but offer a solution to this – say reangling a campaign, trying a new tactic or refreshing the content, I’d recommend to keeping chatting with them.

There’s nothing worse than not being kept in the loop when things aren’t going as expected, and the relationship you build with your digital PR agency should be strong enough that they feel comfortable communicating hurdles with you.  

8. They are constantly in contact with you.

This leads me on nicely to communication. The world of digital PR is fast-paced and competitive, so when you are working with an agency, they should be in constant contact with you. This could be to communicate emerging trends, opportunities to work with the media, and how your campaign activity is going. If an agency requests this style of working, I’d certainly see this as a green flag.

If you don’t hear anything from your agency until reporting or invoice time, it might be time to have a chat with them or look elsewhere.  

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency
9. Your relationship goes beyond digital PR.

I’ve touched on this a few times already, but the way digital PR has evolved means that you can receive additional benefits outside of a link placement. This could include everything from building on your brand reputation, promoting specific content pillars or brand values, right through to impacting other channels such as social media and lead generation.

Good digital PR done right can also help drive better relationships within your business and increase staff morale. For example, the agency might earn you press for another department’s initiative or highlight you as a great organisation to work for. As digital PR’s, we also want to showcase internal experts – so a nice press mention for you, your boss or a colleague can often go down well, too.

It’s also worth mentioning that effective digital PR can help to form a nice digital footprint for your business. This is something to bear in mind if you are looking to sell or are going for investment – as often the first place potential buyers or investors will turn to when looking into a new opportunity is Google.  

10. They want the best for you and your business.

A truly fantastic digital PR agency will want both you and your business to do well. They will celebrate your wins and be as excited as you are when a new product is launching, or business performance is positive. If you are working with an agency or speaking with another who demonstrates this to you, in my view, you’re onto a winner.  

So, that wraps up my list of green flags to keep an eye out for when looking for your next digital PR agency. If you’ve found these tips helpful and fancy a chat with the team, feel free to reach out. Alternatively, if you're not ready at this moment, consider bookmarking this resource. We hope it can serve as a practical checklist for future reference when engaging with a new agency or evaluating the performance of your existing one.

Your journey to a successful collaboration begins with informed choices, and we're here to assist whenever you're ready to connect 

10 Green flags to look out for when deciding on your Digital PR Agency

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