Like any relationship, be it business or personal, working with a public relations agency requires commitment and communication along with respect. NRPR Group’s CEO and founder, Nicole Rodrigues, has written blogs that provide examples of identifying great clients, successful relationships and those clients to avoid. In this post, we offer some tips to present and prospective clients of agencies on how to have a successful relationship with a PR agency.
There are two sides to “commitment.” The first is the formal commitment of creating terms, scope of work, and financial arrangements. What will be the priorities for the agency that has committed a certain amount of time for your account and wants to align the team’s primary tasks with your operational main efforts? The second side is that the client and the agency need to be committed to creating a successful relationship. While as perhaps the CMO, CEO or other role to fulfill, there are many items in your wheelhouse and public relations is only one of them, it remains critical that you make time for PR-related activities. The agency team needs to know that there is a point of contact that will be available to answer questions, make decisions and be available to media on short notice. Your agency is working diligently to set up a phone call with a top editor or analyst who covers your space and it does not look good for the company or the agency if the company spokesperson does not let the agency know that they can no longer make the call. Commitment also means having available budgets to travel to conferences for speaking engagements garnered by the agency and time at those events to meet with editors. Time also needs to be allocated for meetings with agencies to keep the team apprised on timelines, product launches and upcoming announcements. Time must also be set aside for reviewing written materials from the agency.
It is easy for one to become caught up in one’s own business and neglect to share information with the agency or because one is so familiar with all aspects of the project that small details are left out. If possible, an agency representative can join internal planning meetings. Communication can be via email, phone or in-person. Quick messages can be emailed or texted while in-person, or face-to-face video-conferences are necessary for planning, messaging and more strategic conversations. Clients must share expectations with clients, and for clarity, it is often best to do this in writing. It is critical that both client and agency have a clear understanding of, and agreement on, intended goals and what will be the measure of success.
The client must be honest with the agency team, which means sharing both good news and bad, whether business- or agency-related. If the client has a product delay or larger crisis, they agency can make contingency plans and help to develop messaging that explains, for example, why the product failed safety testing. If there is an issue with the agency that needs resolving, tell the agency so that the problem can be solved.
The public relations agency is an extension of a client’s team, filling in gaps in expertise and resources and is a partner. The agency provides expertise on media relations, thought leadership, strategic messaging and other key elements of the marketing plan. The agency is a partner, not the “hired help” and the team’s time and counsel should be respected. Many agencies are willing to go above and beyond the scope of work, but “scope creep,” or when a client keeps asking the agency to do more and to extend beyond the agreed-upon commitment, is not appreciated. A great agency acts as though every client is the only client, but the agency does have commitments beyond your account. The greatest respect you can show your agency is to recommend them to colleagues and to serve as a reference to help the agency to gain new clients.
In closing, in the words of NRPR’s fearless leader, Nicole Rodrigues, to have a successful relationship, “you need a connection, a hint of shared interests, an ability to clearly communicate, a confidence and a spark. When these factors are in place, it becomes exponentially easier to deal with the hiccups and disconnects that can occur naturally in business, because there is already that foundation of communication, consideration and a shared end-game vision in place to work together successfully towards solutions.”