With research showing the average client-PR agency relationship lasts only a couple of years, we’re often asked how we’ve maintained client relationships that have lasted more than a decade.
In two words, the answer is: true partnership.
Most PR agencies have robust processes and competent people who want to deliver for the client. And most clients want their PR team to succeed. But it takes more than just those two factors to create a truly winning partnership.
Here are nine key success factors, drawn from our own successful long-term relationships with our clients:
1. Involve them early – The earlier you bring your PR partners into the process, the more value they can add … and the more they’ll feel ownership in your program. If you treat them like strategic partners and involve them in strategy development, they’ll be more effective than if they are treated merely as a vendor implementing tactics.
2. Acquaint and integrate – Both the client and agency need to invest time and effort to get to know and understand each other’s organizations, people and goals. A deep-dive session, regular visits to each other’s facilities, sharing materials and constant communication goes a long way toward building a foundation for PR success
3. Share the bull’s-eye – Agree upon common objectives, measurables and vision of success upfront, so you can work in lock-step together toward the same goals.
4. Make reality rule – The best relationships are built on trust, candor and honesty. Give the agency enough information so it can provide you with its thoughts about realistic budgets, results, measurements and timing. And agree upfront on what is fair in each of these areas.
5. Keep your ears open – Listen to understand first and then listen to respond. Both agency and client should be open to each other’s ideas. You hired the firm for a reason – its experience, expertise, insights and outside perspective. And if, after careful consideration, you decide not to follow the firm’s advice, explain why.
6. All-access pass – The partnership works best when: a) the agency provides the client with senior-level attention whenever necessary; b) the agency consistently acts with a sense of urgency and purpose; c) the client provides access to the right people / information; and d) the client makes responding to the agency a priority.
7. Take care of business – In the best client-agency relationships, both the agency and the client take care of the housekeeping issues. The agency is fair on pricing; meets deadlines; provides solid service; and listens. And the client provides clear direction, makes sure the bills are paid on-time and provides timely feedback.
8. Ward off surprises – By establishing policies and procedures upfront, such as scheduled calls, meetings, status reports, budget tracking, etc., both parties minimize unsettling surprises. Early warnings about emerging issues can help isolate and address problems before they disrupt your plans..
9. Have fun and celebrate – Taking time to commemorate achievements and milestones is important. It builds camaraderie, offers inspiration and provides mutual encouragement … leading to the next success. After all, fun helps to spark creativity, creativity leads to new ideas, and new ideas drive success!
What success factors would you add?