The one issue I hear about again and again from my friends on the agency side is the difficulty of working with clients. The most common retort is that clients don’t understand how to work with agencies. I’ve even seen agency-side colleagues praising their clients on LinkedIn for being open enough to share information with them, which for me is pretty much the basis of any agency-client relationship.
The current state of affairs between clients and public relations agencies needs to be changed. My friends and colleagues on the client side in particular need to change how they engage with their agencies; we need to understand that shouting, raising our voice, berating agency employees or simply demanding all of their time isn’t the basis for a healthy, long-term relationship that will benefit the client.
So, how do we change this? Here’s a couple of pointers:
- Agencies are Consultants – For me, my agency team are consultants. They’re not there to be transactional, to give me a press release and then send it out. They’re there to advise me on the external environment, to provide counsel on opportunities and risks, and to support me in my job. More of us need to think consultants rather than simply implementers of basic tasks (and if you’re an agency which lives on press release writing and distribution, you also need to step up your game.
- Inform them – I’m always amazed by how little agencies know about their clients. And it’s often not their fault. Clients need to give as much information to their agencies as possible. Agency teams are an extension of the client, and they’re representing the client with external stakeholders. Agency teams should be meeting regularly with clients, they should be give access to internal materials, and they should be made to feel that they are a natural extension of the client.
- Learn how agencies operate – Far too few people on the client side have worked either as media or on the agency side. If client leads don’t have this experience, they need to develop an understanding of how agencies work. This means spending time with the agency teams, listening and observing how they operate. This will help in promoting a better understanding of agencies, which clients can then take back into their own operations.
These three pointers are pretty simple. It’s up to clients to put in the effort, to learn about their agencies and respect the value that agencies can bring when they are empowered by clients. As a client, if you’re not happy with your agency then change agencies. If you’re changing agencies regularly, maybe the problem isn’t on the agency side.
If you’re on either the agency or client side, do let me know your thoughts on the above. What have I missed, and what would you change or add to the above? As always, I’d love to hear from you.