Stop wondering about the relationship with your public relations agency, and find out exactly what’s working and what’s broken.
If you don’t want to become one of “those clients” known for burning through one PR agency after the other, and if you don’t want to be known as a PR agency that churns through clients—then measure, measure, measure.
The midpoint of the year is a good time to reflect on one’s business and business relationships. It’s an opportunity to review goals against accomplishments for the first half and to consider course corrections for the next six months.
If you’re in corporate communications and work with a PR agency, this means it’s an optimal time to assess and evaluate this crucial relationship. Whether your agency relationship is a relatively new one (perhaps it started on the first of the year, as many do), or a well-established one, a six-month evaluation is worth every bit of time and effort. It will nip in the bud elements of the relationship that may be heading in the wrong direction.
The midyear agency assessment can be as big an undertaking as client and agency want it to be. Yet, just because the managers of the relationship “feel” things are going well and everyone is so busy anyway, it doesn’t mean the assessment should be a gloss-over. Quite the opposite is true. If the relationship is being managed by “feel” instead of by agreed-to measurement and evaluation criteria (e.g. strategy, execution/tactics, results/impact, income/investment) and on a regular basis, then plan for a bumpy road.
Here’s help: Consider these questions when you sit down with your agency to discuss the hits and misses of the first half and your expectations for the second half. If you work on the agency side, insist that the senior-most client stakeholders participate in the assessment. If the client dismisses the process by not making enough time for it or by delegating the process to junior-level people, then a big problem is already brewing.
- Does your agency team know your business, your markets, and your customers at least as well as you do?
- Do your agency account team leaders understand your internal pressures, or do they only see the world through one lens—their own?
- Is your agency team visible and communicating with you enough?
- If not, why not?
- Do you think your agency team is too busy working on other accounts or out trying to win new ones?
- Is your business important enough to them?
- When do you see or hear from the senior-most agency executives—only when there’s a problem or only when there’s good news to share?
- Are the agency’s senior client service pros truly engaged with your business, in the trenches with the account team generating ideas, and creating insights to propel your communications program forward?
- Is your agency listening to you, or do they insist on doing things only their way and throw a temper tantrum when you insist on an alternative approach?
- Does your agency hold itself accountable by following through on their commitments or has accountability waned since the early days of engagement?
[RELATED: Register for our PR Measurement Summit by Aug. 1 to get an early bird discount.]
In the best agency/client relationships, issues that come up during a review shouldn’t be a big surprise to either party. In the best relationships, communications are open and frequent enough so that major issues are raised and addressed in real time. However, the “best” agency relationships are far and few between. In too many agency/client relationships issues stay in the parking lot, with both parties hoping the issues will disappear on their own.
What’s the relationship with your agency like? Midyear is a good time to find out.
A version of this story first appeared on the author's blog, What It Takes.