We had nice comments on a previous post from the PROI Worldwide meeting, What Clients Really Want From Their PR Agencies, so it inspired me to look at the flip side of the client-agency relationship. Here’s our list of top things a typical PR firm looks for in an ideal client.
Commitment. Occasionally in this business you see a client who is a PR dabbler. They’re “testing”, or maybe they liken it to direct marketing or digital advertising — something that can be turned on or off as a demand generation tool. If so, the program is unlikely to be successful. We look for an understanding of what PR can (and can’t) do, and a reasonable commitment to a strategic PR campaign.
Clear objectives, well communicated. This one’s a mutual responsibility. The onus is on the agency to be straightforward and specific about goals and outcomes. But goals should flow from business objectives, which originate with the client. Where it occasionally gets tricky is when there are other, less obvious needs from a PR campaign – like personal glory for a key executive, or support for a sales team. We can handle that; we just need to know.
Transparency and openness. Agencies need information to do our job. Lots of it. More than many clients think the PR team will need. This refers to brand or corporate background information that will help the team tell your story, but it can also mean insight about company politics, corporate changes, or senior management expectations.
Trust in our expertise. Agency professionals appreciate clients who will listen and trust our expertise. That doesn’t mean a client should take every recommendation or always agree with our viewpoint, but true respect for years of experience is necessary on both sides of the relationship.
A spirit of partnership. I know, it’s a cliche, but that’s because it’s true; the most demoralizing thing for an agency team is to be the last to know about a key development, or to be left out of a communications strategy discussion. The best clients are highly collaborative. They consider the agency team as an extension of their own staff, with the privileges and accountability that come with it.
Help in managing expectations. Particularly among senior management. This is a common concern among agency teams who aren’t always in regular contact with the CEO or other top client executives. If the PR program’s value isn’t communicated properly at the outset, or if it falls prey to “expectations creep,” that can undermine the relationship and the outcomes.
High expectations. Needing to manage expectations doesn’t mean they should be low. Agency creatures thrive under (reasonable) pressure. When the bar is raised, expectations are clear, and we’re all pulling together, that’s when we can do our best work.