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It’s surprising how many people come to me to share their regrets about a public relations agency they hired.  More often than not, they hired the agency with the goal of increasing their company’s name recognition and incoming sales leads.  Yet when they evaluated the agency, they missed easy warning signs.

So here are seven must-have attributes your company will want to be on the lookout for when seeking a great PR agency—or evaluating your current one.

1. Deep industry knowledge

Many publicists specialize in verticals, just like salespeople do.  It makes them far more effective at what they do.  So if you’re considering working with an agency, check out the bios of the executives who will be involved in your account.  Have they dedicated their careers to this industry?  Is their knowledge only superficial, or is it deep?

A publicist needs to understand the complexities and background behind industry developments without requiring you or a reporter to explain them.  If they can’t read the morning’s news about the latest regulatory changes and instantly come up with a thought-provoking news story to pitch to the press, then they will miss 9 out of 10 press opportunities that arise, and reporters won’t respect them.

2. Influential, impactful writing

A great public relations agency has excellent writers that make your job easy.  While good writers can be plentiful, finding talented writers who truly understand the mortgage and financial services space can be much harder.  A great agency needs to have writers who can write in such a way that entertains and captivates readers enough to make them want to read what you have to say—whether in an article, a case study, a website or a brochure.

3. Extensive connections with your target press

Whether you’re seeking coverage in the trade press, the national business press, local press, television or radio, having the right connections is critical. It can take months or years to make a good connection with a prominent media outlet.

I recall one client saying they’d been unsuccessfully trying to get coverage in the Wall Street Journal for a year before reaching us.  We got them an interview that same day.  That being said, having a story worthy of publication is important, but having the right connections is critical.

4. The manpower to get things done

I recall the days back in 2002 when I started my agency.  I was doing everything for my clients.  Then it was just two of us.  We often lacked the time to do everything we could have been doing to proactively publicize our clients.  When you’re caught up writing articles or press releases, seeking out opportunities for awards or speaking engagements, and managing various accounts, it can be very easy to miss great opportunities for press coverage.

That’s why it’s critical to have a pitching team on your account—so that you have several eyes and ears looking out for great press opportunities for your company.  After all, you don’t want your target publication to write a feature story on your area of expertise and have them mention all your competitors—but not you.

5. Proven experience securing awards

Knowing what awards are coming up, when to apply for them, and how to write a killer nomination are all very critical.  You need an agency that can notify you of what’s coming up, can explain award criteria, and can produce an award nomination with high odds of getting picked.

Writing a winning award nomination takes incredible skill.  I recall one industry editor confiding in me that my agency’s nominations were always so strong that he always made them finalists.  That’s putting the odds on your side.

6. Expertise in securing speaking engagements

A great agency will inform you when proposals for speaking engagements will be due, can recommend timely topics, and write compelling proposals.  They can also recommend suitable panelists to help strengthen the proposal.

7. No long-term contract

Steer clear of agencies or publicists that ask for a contract length without an easy way to terminate the relationship on the spot. If you’re not happy with their work or if you no longer need their services, you should be able to move on without any issues.  I can’t tell you how many people come to me wishing they were not stuck for X number of months with their current agency until their contract runs out.

If you’ve found an agency that says they do all these things, make sure you get proof.  Get writing samples from the writer who will be on your account.  Ask them how many awards your future account team secured this year.  And make sure you closely evaluate the experience of those who will be on your account.

At Strategic Vantage, we pride ourselves in providing the kind of public relations services that set the benchmark for how the work should be done.  If you’d like to discuss how public relations can help grow your business, just reach out to  We’d be happy to be of assistance.