They say hindsight is 20/20.
We often divide life into complementary components, and for PR agency pros, the world of client relations is no different.
I wore both agency and client hats, and have since fully transitioned from PR agency owner to client. It’s taught me a lot about what I would have done
differently if I were to run a PR agency again.
I gained a whole new perspective into client and agency relationships. Now that I’m on the client side of the fence, I see that understanding both sides
can help clients and PR agency pros work together more fruitfully.
Here’s what I would have done differently as a PR agency owner—and how you can make your agency a better partner for your clients:
1. An understanding of clients’ schedules and priorities
My agency frequently had clients who simply did not have time to give us what we needed to be successful—or so I thought.
Clients must be dependable and communicative. They should understand that PR is a time commitment, and if someone within the organization can’t meet the
commitment, a PR campaign should be put on hold until it can be a priority.
The flip side of this is patience and understanding on the part of the agency. I often became frustrated when clients didn’t read every email we sent or
respond to us as quickly as we would have liked. I instilled a culture of frustration instead of a culture of problem solving.
In hindsight, we should have paid more attention to each client’s communication patterns and preferences so we could work with—not against—them.
PR client management
is important, but understanding both sides of the coin is essential for success.
2. More focus on company vs. PR goals
If you’re a PR or marketing expert, you think you know best. You have pet strategies and favorite tricks for delivering results.
Though getting your client’s name in The New York Times is impressive, it may not mean much to a client focused on getting niche industry leads.
Goals are the foundation of spectacular ideas and results, but they have to be the client’s goals. Otherwise, your results won’t rate. This is a
nuanced concept many PR agencies miss because they’re too focused on the “wins” that they are familiar with.
Instead of determining what the metrics for success should be on your own, ask your clients how they measure PR success.
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3. Better data tracking
Clients want data on how and where their money is going—and what kind of results it’s earning.
They want to know if they’re investing in the right strategies and the right agencies. If your team can’t quickly access data that demonstrates your value,
your clients have no reason to continue the relationship.
As a PR agency owner, I worked with startups that couldn’t afford to pour money into initiatives that weren’t working, but I still let too much slide.
Keeping track of information is an arduous task. I knew that, but I could only take so much whining from my team. So, I gave in, allowing a small
information to be missed here and there.
It didn’t really matter until the clients called me with concerns and wanted those little bits of insight that I couldn’t provide on the spot—or worse, at
all. Inevitably I had to ask my team to drop what they were doing, fish through their spreadsheets and other reporting systems and cobble together a
report. It was time consuming and it angered the client who had to wait. I also didn’t have enough time to make sense of the data.
Be diligent keeping tabs on your results. Data is important. It’s high in demand, too; clients are no longer forgiving of “feel good” PR campaigns.
4. Greater targeting
As an agency owner, I considered myself fairly strategic. As a client, I’ve learned that nothing should be a shot in the dark. Every PR and marketing
initiative should be mapped to a client objective—otherwise, it’s not a strategic use of resources.
This is how situations where clients asked us to cast wide nets would usually play out: They asked us to submit for every speaking opportunity at every
tradeshow and event that we could feasibly (and feebly) connect to the subject matter. We pitched as many reporters and “influencers” as we could, as often
as possible. We’d talk to every analyst that has ever looked at our industry. Despite our hard work, our efforts ultimately resulted in failure.
Though we tried hard to talk clients out of these decisions, we sometimes gave in. Don’t do the same. Instead, walk away from these kind of accounts. It’s
not worth the damage to your agency’s reputation.
readers, have you been on both sides of the fence? What additional things would you change inside PR agencies?
Aly Saxe is the CEO of IrisPR, a SaaS PR solution to help PR teams better manage their data and