3 tips for establishing a strong client/agency partnership

It’s the ultimate compliment for PR pros to be treated as part of your internal team. Here’s how you can make sure you get the most from your agency partners.

“We don’t think of you as our PR agency, you’re part of our team.”

If you just got chills, you understand what a compliment it is to hear a client utter those words to you and your team.

A truly symbiotic partnership between an agency and client is hard to come by, and typically doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work from both sides and it can have its ups and downs, as does any relationship between two people that spend a lot of time together. When a great client/agency partnership hits its stride, whether that’s two months into the relationship or two years, the results are magic.

Much of it boils down to being really committed and unwavering on the basics. Here are three ways to solidify your relationship:

1. Clarity: Be clear on what you’re working toward.

At the start of a new year or ahead of a new product launch, it’s important to come together and agree on what great results look like.

For a disruptive, fast-paced company, those goals may change from one campaign to the next. One year a start-up’s “holy grail” piece of earned media coverage could be a feature in the Wall Street Journal, a publication known to be well-read by potential investors. The next year, it’s coverage in auto trade publication Automotive News, to help establish credibility of a product launch in a new market.

With everyone on the same page, there’s no ambiguity when it comes to what the collective team is working toward, critical success factors needed to get there, and how success will be measured.

Though the goals may change, the message really shouldn’t. There should be clarity in the way a company communicates what it does, why it matters and what it stands for, and it should ring true throughout each campaign. Its mission should be used as a guiding light throughout each brainstorming session, iteration on a new press release or prep for an exciting media interview. A good PR agency has a deep understanding of what their client does and an innate ability to help them communicate it to the world in a clear, succinct way.

2. Availability: Don’t underestimate the time commitment.

Ensuring a PR team eats, sleeps and breathes a client’s message and value proposition is just as much the client’s responsibility as the agency’s. Not just at the onset of the partnership, but on a daily basis the client and its subject matter expert(s) should make themselves available to their agency.

This could include everything from a quick text exchange to confirm spokesperson availability for a last minute media interview to the CEO carving out time amid his or her busy schedule to provide input for brainstorms, new talk tracks and a point of view on relevant industry news.

Time investment from key stakeholders at a company, and its agency team-leads, makes all the difference in keeping ideas fresh and creative and keeping the PR program improving beyond the average client/agency three-year tenure expiration date.

3. Collaboration: Be willing to cooperate—a lot.

So much of PR is an exercise in creativity. How can we think bigger this time around? How can we tell our story in a new way? How can we capture journalists’ attention?

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes time and a meeting of minds willing to collaborate and think through what’s next.

A relationship rooted in collaboration ensures everyone is heard, is invested in the future and has a “stake in the game.” It also builds trust, a fundamental component of any relationship, and ensures a client feels comfortable sharing sensitive information like new investment rounds, product roundups and upcoming partnerships.

Collaboration is what makes PR rewarding and builds agency/client camaraderie outside of what team-building lunches and job-well-done drinks can achieve.

Don’t forget the power of offering credit where credit is due. The client should create visibility for their agency with their board, peers, colleagues and other members of the client’s network. When a client claims you’re part of their internal team, and is more than willing to act as a happy reference, there is no greater level of success.

Check out this video to learn more about what Gabi thinks makes for a strong client/agency partnership.

Stephanie Jackman is the account director for March Communications. Gabi Zijderveld is the CMO and head of product strategy for Affectiva.

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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