[Research] Questions to Ask Digital Talent and Social PR Agencies in 2014

Does your digital marketing talent have a clue? Publicists and public relations agencies are playing serious catch up to the social media and SEO world while businesses are recognizing the serious need to focus on digital, mobile, social and search. But since everyone is claiming to be an expert, the chips are falling and failing to meet the expectations and ROI results.

New research by OMI, in partnership with ClickZ and Kelly Staffing, reveals Fortune 500 companies and global agencies face a serious digital marketing skills shortage.

Social PR Chat’s Lisa Buyer caught up with digital marketing thought leaders to find out what brand’s need to know when hiring digital talent, whether it be an agency or in-house:

Questions to ask when hiring a digital marketing agency or in-house talent?

Ask for proof and ask them to back it up!

“Look for their case studies and results. Look at specific tactics and campaigns they’ve done, especially the content that they have written for clients,” said Erin Everhart, director of digital marketing at the digital agency 352.

Getting down to brass tacks in the line of questioning, don’t be afraid to ask things like this and if you are a digital marketer, be prepared to answer these questions:

  • What ideas do you have for our industry specifically?

  • How do you see the digital marketing industry changing?

  • Walk me through what the relationship would be like if we sign?

  • Can we meet the team? Or at least someone who will be working specifically on the account or department team?

  • Always ask for client or account/brand references. You can glean a lot of information by talking to someone who’s worked with the agency to get a better idea of how things are after the sales process.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 11.05.56 PM“Digital marketing is easy to talk about. In theory, it’s easy, right? Create great content and build solid relationships with your users. But that’s so much harder to put into practice, and it’s easy to get side-swiped by an agency (or a potential in-house marketer) who says all the right things but doesn’t have the chops or work experience to  back it up,” said Everhart.

What tips can you give on how to hire digital talent and what to look for when you are hiring?

US Search Personality of the Year Marty Weintraub is a seasoned digital marketer with a proven track record and above all…an opinion on digital talent. Here’s the upfront and personal advice he offers brands to question when hiring digital talent:

  • What’s the ROI? Tell me how you associate social behavior.

  • What social tactics do you undertake that introduce new customers into our marketing system and at what cost? Most of social is preaching to the choir in the form of a brand’s existing friends.

  • Who works on the accounts? Is the agency a genius with a hundred helpers or are there other amazing practitioners that work at the agency, other than the founder.

  • What part of the social distribution puzzle is paid and what is organic?

  • Who does the social targeting? What is the methodology? Does the agency turn over the targeting data as part of the engagement or does that cost more?

  • What is the account management structure?

  • How many years experience does the primary client facing account manager have? What is that person’s background?

If you are a digital agency, here are some best practices to close the talent gap:

“We also have a pretty rigorous internship where interns are directly embedded with one of our 3-person teams. They get brought on client meetings, team planning/brainstorming and department meetings so they can fully understand how the whole process works. If you give them just one task, they’re stuck in tunnel vision and they don’t see how it fits into the big picture. It’s impossible to get a full understanding of digital marketing that way,”  said Everhart.

The best ideas come from the most ideas. Hiring smart means having a process and system in place to do this well. Read Lisa Buyer’s latest article in SearchEngineWatch for more on how to hire and keep digital talent or you can also buy her latest book Social PR Secrets