Scott Baradell, president of the Dallas PR firm The Idea Grove, asks that very question on the homepage of the agency's web site. I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed this a long time ago, but I spent some time reviewing his PR Agency Questionnaire, and I like the idea of it quite a bit.
What struck me about it was that based on the way the questions were worded, I'm not sure even a top score of 19 or 20 says very much. I told Scott that his questionnaire sends the message that the bar for PR firms isn't set very high. Here's what Scott said when I asked him about it:
"The questionnaire is aimed primarily at clients who are already wondering if they are getting the level of service they should expect. The questions touch on the warning signs I saw over the years when I knew it was time to cut ties with an agency. Just about any agency you start out with will score in the high range on this questionnaire at the outset of the engagement. The time to take this questionnaire is when you are beginning to have doubts. That's why in the setup I say the questionnaire is designed to help you determine if your PR firm is "adequately" meeting your needs. (I have a separate agency review spreadsheet on the site for clients that are in the initial agency selection process.)
"From a marketing perspective, I know that people are coming to my site either when they are looking for a new agency or having doubts about their current agency. The agency review spreadsheet is designed to address the first group of visitors. The questionnaire is designed to address the second group, to help them determine if their doubts are justified. In that sense, it would be fair to say the bar is low."
I actually think clients should use Scott's questionnaire as a foundation for creating their own template based on the specific expectations THEY have for their PR firms. The point is not to employ the questionnaire as a "gotcha" device, but as a tool to communicate and clarify expectations. If the PR firm continues to fall short, then it's time to look elsewhere.
Notes: A big thanks to Scott Baradell for offering his perspective. Also, as ToddAnd's first of five guest bloggers for this week, I posted a video I hope you'll enjoy. Let me mention that the four bloggers to follow in the series will be Kami Huyse, Gavin Heaton, Drew McLellan, and Darryl Ohrt. Don't miss their posts!