Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions for PR Agencies: 6 Steps to Evolve the Perfect Client-Agency Relationship

In a perfect world, public relations would involve a simple relationship between client and agency. The client would respect and trust the PR agency to maximize opportunities and not just reduce risk. And the agency would make sure the client stays involved in strategies and decisions. Sadly, this is not always how things go in the PR world.
What lessons and resolutions can agencies and their clients take into the New Year to make public relations a smoother and more effective collaboration? Here are 6 steps:
1. Root the client- agency relationship in trust:  Building a strong foundation from the get-go is key to a dream relationship.  The client signed your agency for a reason. Know what that reason is good-pr-clientand make it the foundation of your relationship.
2. Figure out where your agency stands with the client: Is it more like a partnership or a division of roles? Will your agency be an extension of the client’s in-house team? Or is your agency playing more of a crisis management role?  Knowing the answers to these questions and relaying your expectations to the client leaves no room for doubt or unmet expectations.
3. Lay the groundwork for transparency, polite pushback and unvarnished feedback: PR is often about describing a client or their campaign in the best light possible.  Some call it spin. Whatever it’s called, the PR-client relationship must be robust enough to weather contentious moments when creative differences emerge. In the event of creative differences, it helps to remember that the client is challenging your ideas, not your agency.
4. How, Why, What, When, Where?:  We expect these questions from our clients, but why shouldn’t our clients expect the same questions from us? That means going beyond merely keeping clients in the loop. Explaining the process of why you are doing what you’re doing gives the client confidence in their choice. It’s important to remember that clients are not communications experts. That’s why they’ve recruited your PR firm to begin with. Therefore it’s critical that extra steps are taken to make sure clients feel like they are part of the PR process.
5. Ask questions:  It’s ok to go back to the client with questions if you are uncertain about any information provided. It doesn’t show weakness, but rather, it shows that you are thorough and committed to getting the job done right the first time.
6. Staying two steps ahead:  At any given point, you want to be two steps ahead of your client and their industry. More often than not clients need options and recommendations to determine what they don’t want. While that may be frustrating, keep in mind that they hired your agency. Listen to their needs and they’ll return the favor.
Ultimately, successful PR efforts come down to establishing a strong working relationship between the agency and client. Anyone in PR knows that some clients are harder to work with than others. What can distinguish your agency is how well you handle those challenges and still lead by example as PR professionals. The New Year is the perfect time to go the extra mile and break down these so-called barriers between agencies and clients.
What other recommendations would you add to this list to make the PR agency-client relationship stronger and more collaborative? Share your thoughts below.