In order for clients to get the most value from their PR agency and for Press Relations Officers (PROs) to be able to work in the most efficient way on brands, a good client/agency relationship is essential.
To initiate a good relationship, it is important to clarify what your expectations are. Expectations should be discussed and agreed upon in initial meetings and goals should be detailed, measurable, time-based and achievable. A client should provide their agency with their goals with the bigger picture in mind, for example; where they want to be in five years. Ambiguous statements such as ‘raise the brand’s profile’ need to be expanded upon with specific goals, like increasing the brand’s Google ranking from the fourth page to the first page within six months, or achieving 10 pieces of national press coverage in the year. Evidence suggests that by establishing these objectives in the early stages of the client/agency relationship, a return on the client’s investment is maximised.
The rule of thumb for any agency should be to under-promise and over-deliver. For example, signing a contract that says you will achieve eight pieces of coverage per month, if you know you’ll struggle to achieve that number is to over-promise. If you know that you can achieve six pieces of coverage, commit to that and when you deliver six to ten every month, you have over-delivered on what was agreed, and the client will be satisfied. Similarly, agencies should alert their client to relevant news stories, anticipate their needs, and offer new ideas on top of adhering to the overall expectation framework.
A mutual understanding of policies and procedures is paramount for a successful relationship. The client should give the agency an induction, like they would a new team member, so that the agency can glean an in-depth understanding of how the company works, how quickly things are turned around and the relevant point people to liaise with, if your usual go-to is away and an urgent PR opportunity arises. By the same note, clients need to understand that media is dynamic. Windows of opportunity are small and timing is everything. Get these details laid out initially, so opportunities aren’t missed.
Clients must be clear about what they want from a campaign, but understand that PROs are experts in their field, and there may be a better, more efficient way to reach their goals. It might be that the client wants press, but PROs might suggest that coverage isn’t paramount, and that an SEO strategy would be more appropriate use of time and resources. As a consultancy, it is the agency’s responsibility to advise organisations on how to maximise a budget. Considered recommendations instil trust, and promote long lasting relationships.
Transparent and open communication lines are integral for good, long-term client/agency relationships. That is not to say you need fortnightly meetings, but the value of face-to-face meetings must not be underestimated. When circumstances change in the client’s business, such as a change in leadership, the way that this information disseminates is often key, and must be capitalised on from a PR perspective, so a mutual understanding is crucial.
Clear expectations, achievable, measureable goals, a good knowledge of each other’s systems, established and consistent procedures, co-creation of campaigns and open communication are the foundations of a long, happy client/agency relationship. These procedures will enable PROs to work as efficiently and productively as possible, whilst ensuring clients get maximum value from their PR agency.