Do what you do best and outsource the rest!
~ Peter Drucker
As your business grows and changes, outsourcing your PR and marketing is an efficient and cost-effective way to assure your business gets the optimal expertise and latest technology to increase your company profile and grow your business, while your in-house team focuses on your core business.
10 Must-Dos When Outsourcing PR and Marketing
Whether you decide an agency or a freelancer better serves your business needs, there are responsibilities and safeguards you should follow any time you outsource work to someone not on your payroll.
1. Check references:
Interview a PR agency or freelancer with the same criteria you’d hire a full-time employee. Ask for references from other clients, and check their portfolio.
2. Put your contract in writing, including payment terms
A verbal understanding, particularly if you’re working with a remote service provider, is prone to misunderstandings. Most agencies will have a standard contract procedure. When working with freelancers, they may not have a formal contract system. A written contract with clearly identified project expectations, payment terms and termination circumstances is for your benefit as well as the freelancer or agency.
3. Be clear on deadlines
Be clear about your expectations and all milestones and project deadlines. Payments can be linked to project milestones. Some online freelance staffing networks have built-in systems to manage project milestones.
4. Don’t hire strictly on fees
Budget is a critical factor in hiring an outside provider, but it is not the only factor. A low rate is not a cost-savings when low quality work is delivered. When hiring freelancers from other countries, what appears as a low rate may in fact be a high rate in the freelancer’s home country.
If you are not experienced hiring remote workers, spend extra time to assure you understand competitive wages and standards. Some agencies that link freelancers to businesses in need of work have a service to manage fee payment and work quality.
5. Define quality standards and metrics
Perfectly acceptable work product for one business may not meet the standards of another business. Identify, discuss and document quality standards for a PR agency or freelancer that you are hiring. Some metrics are easily measures, such as impressions or engagement on social media. Other metrics are more subjective, such as “quality” graphics or content. As part of your needs assessment, your business has to clearly understand what your quality standards are, so that you can identify outsource services that can meet those standards.
6. Establish communication channels
Who in your organization does the agency or freelancer report to? What if they’re not available – what is the chain of command? What are your expectations for a reasonable time to respond to questions? How will you communicate – phone, email, in-person, Skype?
7. Identify time zone differences
Remote workers may execute their work on a very different time zone than where your business is located. Identify the time differences, and issues such as holidays and workweek – not all countries have the standard Monday – Friday workweek.
8. Clarify language differences, i.e. spelling and colloquialisms
If written documents are part of the expected work product, specify which dictionary, what tone and voice you want used and other specific preferences.
9. Negotiate ownership of the work product and intellectual property
In some cases outsourced work is intended to appear to be the work product of the hiring business. Think of ghost writing: a celebrity often hires a writer to write a book or article for them, but that the celebrity is listed as the sole author, and no credit or acknowledgement is given to the actual writer. If you are outsourcing a marketing project or function clarify who is the actual owner of the project. Are you comfortable if the PR agency lists you as a client on their website? Are you comfortable if the freelancer uses the artwork they designed for you in their portfolio? Make sure all decisions regarding ownership and promotion of work product are documented in your contract.
Identify any information, documents or tools that your business considers intellectual property and or confidential, and document your rights and expectations regarding use and security of this property after the project ends.
10. Implement change controls
In a busy work cycle with communications by text, email and phone calls, it’s easy for a vital project deliverable or deadline change to get overlooked. There are many online tools that can be used for change management and project communications, including:
Be ware of project scope creep: asking for extra work means extra cost. When asking an agency or freelancer to make changes to work that you already approved, or to add work not specified in the original contract, make sure that you discuss what the additional costs are for those changes.
Whether you already have a PR team on-staff and need to grow your communications efforts, or you are just starting PR and marketing; a well strategized and planned communications plan executed by PR and marketing professionals will ensure your message reaches your target audience, gets results, and provides a ROI to your business.