Are you thinking about investing in a PR agency? Finding the perfect agency can be the difference between a great campaign or a PR bust. Like any relationship, the client-agency partnership is a two-way street, and if managed properly, should become stronger the longer you work together. If managed poorly, it can make or break your PR strategy, and can end up being a huge waste of money and time.
Having worked both on the client side and agency side, here are 4 qualities that I believe create an enduring engagement between company and agency.
Set Expectations and Be Realistic
One conversation an agency and client should have early and often is around goals and expectations – from both sides. Explaining what you expect of your agency will give the team a clear understanding of your company’s objectives and will help them create detailed strategies and tactics in order to achieve those goals.
However, depending on how lofty your goals are, it’s up to the agency to set your expectations for how likely it is to reach those goals and what sort of time and budget it will take. For example, when we meet with a company during an RFP, often the first goal they list is to land a story in TechCrunch / The New York Times / The Wall Street Journal / etc. – and they want the story posted in the few weeks. Our job as an agency is to share how realistic it is to secure that story, articulate what information we would need from your team in order to create a compelling angle, and to provide a realistic timeline for when it could be placed (e.g. a digital publication will have a shorter turn-around time versus a print publication that can take months before being published).
Communicate Openly and Regularly
When the agency has open access to the company’s leaders and is aware of both small and large changes in the company (e.g. new products, funding, leadership changes, etc.) in a timely manner, it can dramatically increase the quality of results and reduce the time invested to generate those results. Similarly, when the internal team can contact any member of the agency, the company gets the information it needs faster. To achieve that access, there must be a mutual level of trust that the agency earns from the company over time by generating a track record of success.
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Companies hire agencies to get results. It’s up to the agency to propose new ideas, work around obstacles and make things happen. Sometimes, the agency team just has to decide that failure is not an option and keep at a project until it achieves success, whether it’s pitching media, writing a complex white paper, placing the company thought leader as a speaker at a tier 1 conference, and more. But, it’s up to the company to provide the necessary spokespeople, content, and resources. Optimized results happen when agencies and companies reinforce each other.
Trust Each Other as Partners and Possibly Even Friends
While this may sound trite, the best engagements are based on trust. Internal PR teams need to trust that the agency will deliver results, will provide document drafts on time and of the highest quality, and will communicate openly when the news about a project is good, and sometimes when it isn’t. Agency teams need to trust that the company will do all it can to make campaigns successful.
While it’s important to maintain an air of professionalism, there are advantages to getting to know your agency team on a more personal level. We’re working our best to develop and execute ideas and it’s much easier to do so if the agency isn’t afraid to propose out there strategies and the client is willing to take calculated risks on creative campaigns.
What do you think contributes to a great client-agency relationship? Comment below!
How can you make sure an agency is right for you? Keep reading.