So, you are getting ready to hire your PR team. (We're hoping it's us, of course.) No matter what, here are some tips that will help maximize the relationship.
- Commit the time. While we don’t include a two-way time commitment in our contracts, we do spell out time frames, such as “rush” periods and requests for notification at least 60 days before trade shows and events. We also specify phone conferences every 7-14 days and quarterly or semi-annual face time to keep everyone abreast of developments and on the same page. The intervals will depend on the extent of your contract.
- Communicate your goals and expectations. We are very specific about deliverables in our agreements and provide monthly reports to show what we’ve done to make them happen.
- Challenge your PR team. “I had a client who, when giving us creative direction, would constantly urge us to challenge ourselves. His catch phrase was, “Be bold; be brave.”” Personally, I seriously prefer being cut loose to cookie cutter work and always appreciate being unleashed. Clients like this are golden.
- Respect their time. “…if your PR team works on a flat fee basis, and you know they’ll eat the extra hours at month’s end, don’t abuse it…” Everyone understands that situations arise, and something extra needs to be done. There are, however, clients who chronically do this, which builds an unhealthy dose of resentment into the relationship. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to tactfully say, “We’ve completed all the deliverables for this month, do you want me to put this first on the list for next month?” This will not mollify the “emergency” prone histrionic or narcissistic types, so further tact will be required…or an additional fee.
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- Ask for feedback. The only qualifier is that if you ask for feedback, you may not be told what you want to hear. One client’s CTO was a chronic no show for journalist and analyst appointments or constantly rescheduled, leading to his reputation as “a flake.” A true narcissist, he was astounded that everyone didn’t understand that his time was more valuable than everyone else’s. Again, this requires considerable tact.
- Be transparent. “As much as possible, communicate your company’s business goals, not just the communications aims, to your PR team. The more they know, the more they can help you reach them.” Another type of golden client, the true collaborator. Clients like these bring us in close and respect both us and our time, while providing a clear image of what needs to be done in the big picture, which is where I function best.
- Manage expectations internally. “Poor management of expectations is probably the single biggest reason that client-agency relationships fail. A good firm will try to manage yours, but when senior executives have a different set of expectations, everyone looks bad.” Let’s face it, people within organizations are often not on the same page. For example, the CEO may be focused on an appearance in TechCrunch to bring thousands of site visitors. However, most will not be qualified leads. Marketing and sales managers generally prefer to appear on niche trade websites, where their buyers really are.
- Give credit. “When you find those praiseworthy positives, make sure to include the rank-and-file team members who may not have a lot of face time with clients.” This pertains more to larger agencies as it’s stated, but can also apply to the client giving due recognition to the agency. Several years ago, we were working with a company that brought in a new CEO, who was looking to clean house. When we wrote and placed an article that led to a large sale within 24 hours of publishing, the new CEO thanked everyone in the sales process – except for us! Not one of the golden clients, to be sure.
- Be a partner. “Yes, we throw that word around a lot in the agency business, but ultimately it means that the relationship goes beyond a transactional one.” An expansion on #6, it affirms the importance of the back and forth that makes for great collaboration.