A strong communications agency is like an extension of your internal team – they believe in the vision of the company, they know the business’ goals and they have a strategy in place to achieve those goals.

Unfortunately, not every PR firm fits this description. While we firmly believe it takes two to tango when it comes to building a successful agency/client relationship, here are the signs that it’s time to move on from your agency:

  1. The ability to secure coverage relies on news – a media relations program without news does take more hustle, creativity and time to lift off the ground. That said, one of the key markings of a solid PR team is the ability to secure coverage, with or without the hard news hook. It’s tougher, but with the right creative oomph, it can be done.
  2. All you get is crickets – communications is the job – if your agency can’t manage to keep up with internal client comms, how do you think they’re handling the external comms? Whether there’s big news coming up or the agency is cranking away at proactive initiatives, the team needs to keep you in the loop on progress.
  3. Senior staff are rarely seen – while it’s inevitable that senior staff are more involved in the beginning, they also need to be involved and visible once the program is off and running. If the senior folks you saw in the beginning have now ghosted the program, it’s time to move on.
  4. They won’t level with you – the makeup of the team and the ability to score results is fantastic, but the agency needs to offer strategy, counsel and a path forward, even if it is counsel you don’t want to hear.
  5. The focus is on quantity, not quality – most communications plans target a specific volume of coverage (and FWIW, for many programs, targeting for volume is more than ok). However, when the coverage secured is with a publication that doesn’t reach your target audience and/or doesn’t include key messaging/positioning, can anyone really count that as a win? It’s unrealistic to expect every piece of coverage to be a feature made of gold, but an agency worth keeping around will want to know the impact of their work to determine how to refine their approach.
  6. Results are not aligned with goals – similar to point #5 above, the communications team needs to develop the narratives, cadence and targeting that reach and influence your desired audiences. We recently spoke with a lead that said their previous agency pitched the company’s CEO for a profile in a vertical they have no plans to sell to. There’s a variety of factors that probably led up to this agency pitching this story, but ultimately, the right agency knows how and where to focus their time and yours.
  7. Excuses rule the day – as much as it breaks our Type A hearts, not everything will be an A+ campaign. Things happen, though the communications team needs to foreshadow the possible risks prior to the campaign and raise the flags early and often. Following a mess-up they need to be honest, transparent and accountable about what happened and what about the process will change the next time.

PR teams should take smart risks and should experiment with different approaches and channels, though a strong team will anticipate any challenges and have a plan in place if trouble arises.

As they say, there’s two sides to each story. We’ll share some thoughts shortly when it’s time to fire the client.