When a client retains a PR firm, it is with the best of intentions. The company has an important business story to tell, a new consumer product launch or an issues battle to win. But often, good intentions are thwarted when the rubber meets the road. Perspectives change, personality traits come to fore and soon both parties are strategizing to keep the relationship productive and successful. Here are five things clients should think about NOT doing to help foster and preserve the successful client-agency relationship.
Set aside an unrealistic budget for PR. Public relations should never be an afterthought. It’s not productive to think we can “carve out a little money” for a few months of PR. Successful, change and results-driven strategic PR requires the same thoughtful process and budgeting that any other marketing discipline does within an organization. In a situation when a PR relationship is working well and the agency is told, “we have to cut PR,” all that wonderful media momentum stops and reputation-building efforts go back to zero. Something to think about when creating a smart marketing budget.
Contact reporters without informing your agency. Please don’t reach out to reporters directly or send out media pitches without informing your agency. Turn over media requests for the agency to vet first. With rare exception (a contact is an old friend, etc.) clients who talk to the press sans PR guidance can find themselves answering questions they’d rather not or submitting to interviews that miss the audience entirely.
Expand the scope of work, but not the fee. Frankly, this is an agency issue as well. The documents which guide the account (proposal, plan, LOA) should always clearly delineate what is covered by the retainer or project fee. When in doubt, refer to these to keep both parties on track. It behooves everyone to increase work and accomplish more as long as compensation matches expectation!
Keep your concerns to yourself. It’s counterproductive to do a slow burn about an agency issue and inform no one! Most agency-clients concerns can be nipped in the bud and fixed if addressed early enough.
Position anyone NOT in communications or marketing to manage the PR relationship. It happens with smaller or less experienced clients that anyone from CEO to COO and various other titles will manage the PR relationship. This can often lead to misunderstandings about the role and fits and starts with projects. It is helpful to speak the same language when translating marketing goals into PR initiatives.
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