MP Mueller's 9 Keys to Getting the Most for Your Marketing Money on the NYTimes.com's You're the Boss blog, offers a lot of great suggestions for those looking to hire an advertising/marketing agency that also could prove useful for those looking for a PR firm as well.

I wanted to focus on the second point in the article because I think this is one of the biggest challenges we as PR practitioners face when working with clients. It suggests to throw back that curtain once you have committed to an agency relationship and treat the agency - specifically in my case a PR firm - as a partner. MP Mueller hits  the nail on the head, stating:

"We are not the printer repairman; we’re an extension of your marketing team. An agency can help create some remarkable shifts in your business, but not if you keep us at arm’s length. Throw back that curtain and share what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. Give us access to your team. Let us listen in on your customer calls and evaluate all of your touch points — your reception area, proposals, receipts, signage, ads and Web experience. A good agency wants to be challenged and held accountable for results."

Well said. Truth is, in order to get the most out of your PR agency you need to give them access and treat them as part of your internal team and not as outsiders with the approach that it is a buyer-seller relationship, because it can be so much more than that if you let it. Any successful working relationship starts with clear objectives. Understand exactly where PR fits within your entire marketing effort. Share more than your baseline business and marketing objectives with your prospective PR agency so that it can interconnect their strategy and tactics with your organizations short and long-term communications, marketing and business development activities to deliver maximum value both internally and externally.

It's time to throw back that proverbial curtain and let the PR folks and the Sun in.