When it comes to the client/agency relationship, there is always going to be a shifting dynamic- a ‘vibeometer’ if you like. An old boss of mine used to say; “You’re only as good as your last press release – an article today, fish and chip paper tomorrow.” While that was somewhat cynical (and also a sign of our times back then when print was king) there is still this constant desire to perform and meet KPIs (whether these are media articles, bums on seats, engagement etc.) and to be always achieving what we set out to do and making the client happy in the process. Exhausting isn’t it! Especially in media relations when outcomes rely on your skill mixed with a journalist’s decision, the news agenda of the day and a whole host of other variables that could keep you awake at night - if you let them.
And there’s the point – as PR people, what keeps us awake at night and what sends us off into dreamland for a deep and peaceful sleep?
In a nutshell – it’s the client relationship. The ‘vibeometer’. I have found over time there are some key elements of the client/agency relationship that can help to keep us all sleeping soundly in our beds at night – especially as we head up to the end of the year and we are looking back at everything we have achieved and where we are heading next year.
1. Integrity– such a big word. More than likely bandied around by many agencies in new business pitches. The issue is that once the business is won, do you and your team stick to your word? Integrity means many things but really boils down to honesty and transparency. If you think you can achieve an outcome, then go ahead but if it’s never going to fly then advise the client so – however high it is on their wish list. Better to be realistic and honest from the outset then after the activity has fallen over. Often, by sitting down and involving the client in the process, a better way of doing things can be agreed upon. Then everyone is on the same page and can share in the success when the desired outcome is achieved – and that makes for the start of a great relationship.
2. Go the Extra Mile– when I worked as a group director in a big blue-chip agency, we would get our knuckles wrapped for over-servicing. While constantly over-servicing can be a drain on the team and budgets, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with going the extra mile. That means, stretching just a little bit to get the job done - and some. It could be just a small thing that means a lot to the client, such as securing a product review and then a one-to-one interview on top. I recently wrote a media release for a new client then threw in some social content. While I may not always be so generous with my time, it did help demonstrate to the client our genuine desire to help and it has lead to that small project now being extended into a longer-term relationship. Money in the trust bank, if you like – which is what all good relationships are founded on.
3. Stuff – to do our job well we often need to ask clients to provide ‘stuff’ to us – quality images, mission statements, design specs, prices, advertising plans…etc. To many clients who haven’t worked with an agency before, this can be a drain on time and resources – especially if it is ad hoc. Far better, once the contract is signed, to hand over a list of everything that is required to get started and give a realistic amount of time for the client to gather everything together. Much easier than constantly asking for stuff to be sent over at short notice – a sure fire way to put everyone on a short fuse.
4. Time– as a client, if you’re under the pump, it’s very easy to ask the agency to jump onto a campaign or project at short notice but by taking the time to provide a proper brief and background information, you save yourself time in the long-run. It means we are then armed with all the information to go out and get the job done well.
5. Go now– if the relationship has run its course and it’s time to move on, clients please be assured that we know. The vibeometer has flicked the other way and we are lying awake in our beds wondering how to get it to move back. If you think it’s time to part ways, then please put us out of our misery and let us know – or give us the chance to help fix it. Don’t ask us to tender if you know you want new blood – release us, let us go, so we can spend time looking for a new love – it’s the kindest thing to do.
So whether you have been naughty, or nice this year – cheers! We survived it and in this fast paced ever-changing world, that in itself is worth celebrating!
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!