Originally posted to Forbes

Not every company needs a third-party firm to support its public relations and marketing initiatives. However, many companies do hire external agencies to support their initiatives. Often they are looking for a specialty in a particular area of interest (such as media and analyst relations) or an understanding and knowledge of a particular sector (such as IT, automotive, healthcare, etc.). Sometimes they’re looking to augment already strapped teams with capabilities to tackle and implement solutions quickly. Yet another reason is to be sure they have insider knowledge and access to leadership that can provide strategic guidance for their companies, brands and messages. Of course, there are many more reasons to work with a third-party agency. Before you do so, here are three “must-do’s” when you are evaluating a third-party partner solution.

First, you must do your research. When evaluating a third-party firm, make sure you aren’t hiring the same firm your competitors use. While many companies have different account teams, the systems and back-office structure typically are the same. Furthermore, any executive team would do the same. So providing them with your strategies and initiatives may be providing the same to your competitors — without your approval. This leaves you at a competitive disadvantage and could hinder your company’s overall strategic vision.

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