How relationships between clients and PR agencies can thrive or nosedive

How relationships between clients and PR agencies can thrive or nosedive

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

Good news! The day you appoint an agency is the first day of a wonderful relationship.

Bad news! The day you start working together is a countdown to the day you fire that agency.

The “C” word is ‘complacency’, as agencies lose 80% of clients because they are seen as complacent.

Relationships ebb and flow and frustrations are felt on both sides. The challenge is to have those ‘difficult conversations’ with the client and with the team, to iron out issues and get on a corrective path together.

We are human and can make mistakes (once) while learning. But there is a huge difference between ignorance and complacency. Ignorance means “I don’t know”, but complacency means “I don’t care”.

We poll our client base every month on their level of satisfaction with us; it nips any frustration in the bud. We ask a different question each month and our clients rate our performance. On the rare occasion we receive less-than-positive feedback, it is an immediate call to action to get the relationship back on track as quickly as possible. We have a process to follow that ensures nothing is forgotten.

Our client of 12 years, Laurent M., greeted news of a departing Firefly and proposed new team member with thanks and enthusiasm. He thanked the departing team member for her support and dedication, and wished her well on her travels. He welcomed the new team member, saying he looked forward to “working together and clarifying any questions so we can all achieve objectives and deliver results”. The transparency, teamwork and shared appreciation between the client and the agency is the oil that keeps the machinery working at optimum speed and performance.

We are fortunate in that we have many clients coming back to us time and time again, taking Firefly with them as their careers develop and progress. Clients come back because they are treated well, listened to and enjoyed a good and productive relationship with us.

Complacency is what any agency must fight against, daily, and the warning signs are:

1.      Typos spell trouble.

The problem: A litany of typos, meaning that someone doesn’t care enough about the copy they send.

An Answer: Suggest the agency retrains the team, improves written quality standards, operates a three-strikes-you’re-out system, or hires a freelancer journalist as an internal copy editor.

2.      Boredom means predictable.

The problem: A dull proposal or plan means someone is not motivated to be thinking creatively about angles, insights or attention-grabbing opportunities.

An answer: Suggest the agency brings creativity and ideas from other teams on other clients, or brings in an independent creativity facilitator to bring forward those big or small ideas. Cultivate nightmare scenarios—“what if?” situations. Suggest the agency invites sceptical outsiders to contribute.

3.        Set or stuck in a routine.

The problem: Not finding areas to improve, however small, means that “we do it this way because this is the way we do it”.

An answer: Challenge the team and ask, “How could we do this ten times better?”—i.e. set outrageous goals. Or ask, “How can we move from good to amazing?”  Make people feel uncomfortable. People need to be challenged and made less certain. If it ain’t broke, then consider breaking it, to gain a fresh perspective on how it should fit together.

4.       Lacking ambition.

The problem:  Not suggesting or considering ideas that might be risky, but will reap rewards.

An answer: Suggest the agency stops ticking boxes and instead starts asking, “What other boxes should we be ticking?” Investigate how new tactics or technology could “alter our situation for the better or worse”. Benchmark against someone entirely different, especially if your present benchmark comparison merely reinforces your certainty.

The reality is that relationships will always hit a sticky spot; that is a certainty. At that point, both sides need to decide if they want to commit to a correction plan or call it a day. If it’s the former, it requires effort from both parties to turn the situation around. If it’s the latter, treat everyone with dignity and respect. It’s a small industry. What goes around comes around, and reputation is everything. We would say that, wouldn’t we?

 

We continue this discussion in PR Moment - check out the article here.

Share this story:

Read more from the blog

Comms planning

What can 'The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch' teach us about managing reputations?

Lucas Jackson analyses Netflix's latest documentary on Abercrombie and Fitch, discussing its impact on reputation. ...Read more

Lucas Jackson
Lucas Jackson
Tech News

April showers bring May flowers in the form of exciting tech innovation

May has brought a range of innovation across the tech sector, from AI to VR and more. ...Read more

Megan Hogg
Megan Hogg
Claire Walker

A virtual playground: How can VR tools benefit your comms efforts?

As VR adoption increases, the technology is transforming both the world of work and our personal lives. How can comms professionals leverage VR for campaigns? ...Read more

Claire Walker
Claire Walker

Add a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Is it time to shape your reputation?

We operate in London, Paris and Munich, and have a network of like-minded partners across the globe.

Get in touch

Sign up to Spark, our newsletter

Receive thought pieces from our leadership team, views on the news, tool of the month and light relief for comms folk

You can unsubscribe at any time, please read our privacy policy for more information