Public relations is commonly described as a “two-way street,” referring to the idea that clients and agencies work hand-in-hand to achieve a common goal, driving them both in a desired direction. Since this is the case, then why does PR sometimes feel like a construction sight with many detours? From an agency standpoint, clients can be our biggest asset and our biggest challenge.
Working with a good client can make a PR practitioner’s job much easier and more satisfying. What makes a “good” PR client?
A big aspect of being a good PR client is managing expectations. Asking to be featured in specific, very popular publications only may not happen right away. Circulation may not be as often as the client would like, and they need to understand and trust that the agency they hired is full of professionals who know what they are doing, and are doing the best they can to reach the client’s goals.
Clients also must be mindful of listening. Just as they need to clearly communicate to their agency, a client must also know when it is time to take the passenger seat and listen to their agency. The agencies are the pros. And when they are done listening, questions are encouraged. Questions lead to larger conversations that lead to answers and will benefit both parties.
How do we, as agencies, communicate to our clients the type of behavior we expect from them, without being perceived as heavy-handed? We aim to be motivating, inspiring, and uplifting throughout the entire PR process. How do we maintain this attitude while satisfying the needs of the client and taking things to a different level?
It is extremely important on the client’s end to communicate strategically. If a client does not tell their agency yes or no or how they feel about something, the agency cannot be blamed if the client is upset with the outcome. Clients need to acknowledge benefits of constant communication—the agency will always appreciate it.
Having worked with a non-communicative client in the past, one can see the value of working with a company that communicates their needs with the agency. As a client, there is nothing wrong with speaking about what you want to see come out of the relationship with the PR agency; it will provide the agency a better idea of how they can specifically be helping their client, since every client is different and has different needs.
On top of clear communication, chemistry between the agency and client is very important. With good chemistry comes trust; clients must trust their hired agency to do their best to achieve the client’s goals. Trust must be present on both agency and client sides in order to have a lucrative relationship. Agencies look at clients not just as an entity they are working for, but as a group of people to form a trusting relationship with and reach their common goals. Trust is earned.
The relationship between the client and the agency should never feel strained. Agencies do not require excess amounts of management, no matter how much a client might want to give input. A good PR client recognizes that not every PR agency is right for them and will take the time to seek out the one that is, even if it takes more time.
In a thought piece The Good (PR) Client, Len Stein of Visibility PR states, “The client must embrace the agency as an extension of its marketing team with a willingness to collaborate and work as a team. If a client thinks they can outsource their PR and social media without offering much input, you’re looking at an agency-client relationship that is doomed from the outset.” This is the underlying message of what makes or breaks a good PR client. A client will get out of a PR agency what they put into it, just like most relationships in business.
Marketing PR is more than just firing off emails to a large press list to get a client published. It’s about business development and making lasting connections in the respective industry of the client. It’s about reliable contacts and growing profitability. It’s about taking the time to understand the mission of the client and what audience would be best for their content. With business development considered as an integral part of the marketing PR process, clients must understand that time and patience are the keys to their success.
A good PR client speaks their mind while managing their expectations. If the client is able to provide the PR agency with the information they need, they will help them meet their goals. A good client understands that reaching goals takes time, and has patience with the agency while they work. Above all, a good PR client actively participates in their relationship with the agency, helping the two-way street that is public relations run smoothly.
Joan Daly is a junior account executive at Gotham PR, which has offices in New York and London, and clients in 25 cities globally. The article represents Gotham’s ongoing published series of articles focused on Client and Agency-side challenges and evolving solutions inside the global workplace.