Finding yourself a marketing communications agency that works for your institution will enable you to achieve wonders when working together.
But, if you think of your relationship with a marketing communications agency like any other relationship, sometimes there’ll be red flags that mean it’s just not working. Here are seven signs that it may be time to move on and find a new agency:
Like with most things in life, you need a healthy balance. An agency that promises you the world – constant interviews with the BBC, weekly features in The Financial Times, daily features in Forbes – is most probably getting your hopes up and over-promising results at a rate you may never see.
On the other side of the scale, you might have agreed on reasonable, appropriate targets and goals for your media work – let’s say to secure 50 articles featuring your institution in total, with at least six articles in Asian publications. By the end of the year, your agency has secured 25 articles and 2 pieces in Asian media. This would mean your agency is grossly under-delivering.
You need an agency that is able to present realistic expectations for what media coverage can be achieved to meet your goals, and actually secure them.
No impact or goals met
Speaking of goals, there’s no point in engaging in media work through an agency if your goals aren’t being met or it’s not having the impact you desired.
If your goal is to increase your presence internationally to increase student uptake from abroad, then a good agency will know how to achieve this; student and successful graduate profiles in international publications being one of the best ways. However, if your agency is generating coverage for you, but the desired outcomes are still not being seen, then perhaps they are going about achieving these goals in the wrong way, indicating a lack of knowledge for the sector.
Lack of understanding of your sector
The best agency for you will be the agency with a good knowledge and expertise of your sector, especially when it comes to presenting you in the media.
At BlueSky Education, our in-depth and detailed knowledge of the higher education and business education sectors mean we are able to advise and guide clients when it comes to achieving their goals in international media. We are also able to communicate with clients on what content they need to provide and secure to achieve specific goals.
Lack of compassion
At work, we all have a job to do. But we need to remember that we’re all human at the end of the day: We’re not perfect, and we’re not machines.
When securing comment from a client, it's important for your agency to be aware that not everyone will have had experience with media, they might even be uncomfortable or unsure about engaging with media. A good agency will show understanding and support in such situations – perhaps the professor or student being asked for comment would prefer a phone call to discuss the media opportunity rather than provide written comment, they may need a little longer to send something over due to other work responsibilities, or need some guidance on how to provide content for the media.
Patience is a virtue – and one that should be practiced when you’re working with real people.
Lack of communication
When working with an agency to engage with the media, you want to work with one that regularly communicates with you, whether that’s updates on how pitching a topic is going, any developments in the media that would be of interest to your sector, or just a check-in every so often to keep in touch and build that all-important client-agency relationship.
No reporting of outcomes
There’s not much point in sending out a press release on new research or pitching an academic for expert comment if you never see the results that come from it.
Sending over a detailed report on all coverage secured for a certain period is one thing, and is incredibly useful for you to see how a certain media campaign or press release has performed, but the least an agency can do is notify you when coverage featuring your institution is secured. This allows you to keep up-to-date on the publications you are featuring in as well as the results your agency is achieving.
Working together isn’t becoming smoother
We can all appreciate that when two organisations start working together, there might be a few kinks to work out, so could take a little while to find a way of working that compliments both the agency and the client.
The best way to let the agency know how you want to work, is to be upfront. For example, if the agency suggests quarterly catch-up calls, but you’d prefer bi-weekly calls, then let them know. Working with an agency can be incredibly smooth if there is regular, quality communication.
However, if after a few months, half a year or so, you are still finding it difficult to work together, then perhaps that’s a sign they’re not the right agency for you. Especially if things are just getting worse.
With all these red flags in mind, it’s also important not to jump ship immediately. If you feel like it isn’t working with an agency, discuss this with them. There might have been a simple misunderstanding or there could be an easy fix for whatever it is that is causing the problem. You can then take things from there.