Client relations is a major aspect of our jobs at PR agencies. I have personally had the pleasure of working with all sorts of clients during my decade-long tenure in the industry. While I can’t name any favorites (how’s that for PR spin?), I can say that my favorite clients have been those who are true partners. Not only does it make the job more fun and rewarding, but it tends to produce case-study worthy results.
I will continue to improve my own client relations skills while sharing my top five tips for in-house marketing and communications teams to step up their agency relationships.
Challenge your agency – This one may be obvious. However, being a “yes man” won’t push your agency to go as far as they can. This doesn’t mean being harsh or setting unrealistic expectations – but it does mean asking them “why?” when they make a recommendation. Or, asking them to back up their suggested metrics. Your account team should be self-motivated, but it is always good to ensure they aren’t settling because you are not pushing them. Celebrate the wins for sure – and once you do, ask what’s next.
Be honest & prescriptive – When you like something your team does, tell them. But, when you don’t, be sure to relay that feedback as well and explain exactly what you want improved. This way, the team isn’t guessing at what to change and ideally will not repeat the same mistakes. For example, if you want to receive a weekly report at a certain time, prefer a different tone in byline content or think the media coverage has been a little light, don’t hold back. No one wins when the agency is guessing how to please the client. What does success look like? And, what does it not look like? Make this very clear from the onset – and note when it changes. Honest, prescriptive feedback will direct the agency to improve and minimize the time spent on revisions or other issues.
Share helpful information – As the agency team lives outside of your own company, be sure to loop them in on important or helpful information. It may be as easy as inviting them to an internal call or forwarding an email. Other times, it may be letting them know about an executive’s travel schedule or a spokesperson’s personal preferences. Always be thinking of what may be helpful to share with the agency to improve their work and make them feel as much as an extension of company as possible. The more they know, the better job they can do. I can’t count the number of times I have said “That would have been nice to know” after the fact – when our team could have capitalized on an opportunity, had we known.
Be strategic about resource use – On the other hand, be strategic about what calls you invite your agency to and how many emails you forward for them to read. If you overwhelm them with too much information and too many meetings, there won’t be as much time left in their budget resources to execute the actual work. Striking the right balance takes time – and ask your team to be honest with you about this. Don’t set up calls for the sake of calls – ensure there is an objective and let them know when you don’t expect the full team’s time. The agency team should help with this, deciding on their own when the full team is needed, or which tasks could be put on hold and are not priority. Being aware of resources ensures the highest priority actions are focused on.
Remember we are one team – At the end of day, if the agency does their job well, it benefits the client. Set them up for success, treat them like an extension of your team and remember we are all working toward the same goals. Motivate them and reward them in moments of high performance. A team wants to work for a client contact who treats them as a partner and makes the job a rewarding one.
I have been fortunate to work with and learn from so many clients over the years. At PAN, we strive to be partners to our clients and celebrate in the shared successes among our joint teams.