I’ve been in this crazy business of ours for over 30 years. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients, big and small, international and local, service organizations and those selling just about every kind of widget you can imagine. Lots of different clients in lots of different industries – you get the picture.
But despite this diversity of clients, one thing they all have in common: What we wanted from them, and what, when they were open to giving it, helped to make the relationship more successful, productive and profitable for both sides.
So what is it that your PR agency wants from you? In my experience, there are five key things that you, as a client, need to give your agency in order to maximize their ability to be successful for you. Here’s my list:
1) Good communication
From the first “get started” meeting and throughout your relationship together, good, honest and forthright communication is essential. You’ll want to be on the same page, and to be striving for the same things together. We often say the number one characteristic of a good client is that they are able to clearly express what they want and need. For that reason, it is important to share your goals and expectations with your agency, and for you to listen to and seriously consider the agency’s input on those expectations.
More than that, you should tell your agency pretty much everything that is going on that might have any impact on the PR program. Share customer feedback, sales results, interesting things that are happening within the industry and any challenges that you are encountering. Keeping your PR agency in the loop will allow them to work more efficiently in achieving the best results. This flows nicely into number 2…
2) Provide regular feedback
If your PR agency is doing a good job getting interest and securing media coverage for your company or products, you should let them know. Of course, on the flip side, if your agency isn’t meeting expectations, you need to let them know – and the sooner the better. Agencies can change their focus relatively quickly if they are informed of program results on a regular basis. That requires regular client feedback.
3) Understand that we are the experts
While good and consistent feedback is essential, it’s also important for clients to recognize that we are the experts and that they are paying us to know how to best communicate their value proposition and key message points, and how to best deal with the media. Yes, this is a team effort, but clients need to trust us to do our jobs. Which provides a nice segue to number 4…
4) Realize we are on your side
The best agency/client relationships are those where a true spirit of partnership exists. If your PR agency is going to do the best possible job for you, it is essential that you both realize that you are in this thing together. We want what you want – success for the PR program. You should know that we are thrilled when we achieve superior media placements and coverage that drives sales and moves the needle for you. And while I like to think we put our best efforts forward for every client, the truth is we are especially motivated by clients who treat us as partners in the effort.
5) Pay us fairly and on time
While we do love what we do, we are a profit-making business first and foremost. To attract and keep the best professionals, we need to pay them fairly and provide them with the tools and benefits they need to focus their attention on the needs of our clients. So pay us fairly, and pay us on time.
We will bend over backward, and try to move heaven and earth for clients who understand and practice these five things that, in my mind, make for the best, most productive and most rewarding client relationships.