By Tara Hershberger
A growing number of financial institutions are turning to agencies to manage the increasingly complicated and time-consuming effort required to fulfill their social and digital strategy.
It can be a delicate balance finding the right agency. There are the qualifications, experience and factual background that are must-haves on your checklist. Then, there’s that extra something: the connection, akin to the relationship bankers have with their clients, that can sustain a productive agency relationship for years. No matter how well “qualified” an agency is, without both of these elements, the relationship is bound to suffer.
The decision-making process is a balance between emotion and logic. So this column will identify some key questions to use to evaluate a potential social media agency from both perspectives.
All full-service agencies aren’t experts at everything, particularly when it comes to digital and social media, which are disciplines unto themselves. So, oftentimes, even though an agency is fully and successfully functioning as a bank’s agency of record, there may be a benefit to finding a separate social or digital agency of record.
The “agency of record” designation is a more involved, longer-term commitment by definition and is arguably even more important when considering a social media partner. The agency of record responds on your behalf to direct questions, public comments and public reviews. They are your voice. Done right, the social media agency of record becomes an extension of your financial institution’s marketing department. Your social media agency strategizes your defense and advocates the positives to the very influential and vocal social media community.
The nine essential questions to ask:
- To what extent have you managed social sites/digital campaigns and how are they similar to our needs?
- What success have you had, and what were the metrics?
- Have you worked with any financial institutions, and can you provide references?
- What kind of reporting and analysis do you provide, and how do you use that information to inform future campaigns?
- Who will be assigned to my account and in what capacity?
- How much of what you do is managed in-house?
- How did your agency come about and what was your role in that growth?
- How do you stay up-to-date on social/digital media trends?
- What is your process for learning about us?
These questions can be asked directly or via a request for proposal (RFP). Whether you issue an RFP is personal choice. Some marketing managers tell us the RFP process opened their eyes to new perspectives and resulted in a good choice with buy-in from most. In other instances, marketing managers consider the RFP process unnecessary, when, for example, they could start in with a project where they could directly work with a referred agency.
Based on the answers, you will need to consider subjectively whether you think they have the capacity to manage change, since social and digital media is constantly evolving. Does your instinct tell you that they “get” your organization (or do you think they have the capability to do so with additional information, meetings or research)? Do you sense their passion for solid communication? Do they love what they do? What do their references say about them, and are they passionate advocates for the agency?
As logical and factual as bankers can be, emotions play a convincing role when making an agency relationship decision. Go with your instinct!
Tara Hershberger is vice president of media for Pannos Marketing, based in Bedford, N.H. Pannos Marketing offers interactive marketing and social media for financial institutions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Tarahersh.
Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.