4 steps to define the (client) relationship

By Posted in - Internal Communications & Public Relations on June 6th, 2012 0 Comments

As a recent addition to the Full Circle team, I have had a lot of conversations lately with friends and family about my position and have come to one general conclusion: there is considerable misunderstanding as to what the world of public relations really involves.

Although I may be the “new girl” at FCPR, I have worked with multiple agencies over the years and continue to get the same questions. People still ask,  “So what is it you actually do?” or make the assumption that I am a graphic designer or advertising specialist.

Of course, then I have to explain our services – all of the strategic planning, media relations, grassroots marketing, crisis communications, etc. – that encompass my role as a public relations professional. These conversations made me wonder if businesses accurately understand the value of public relations, which leads me to my discussion on the importance of communication and transparency in the client-agency relationship.

In the world of PR, we all know communication is key – but I’m not just talking about communicating with reporters, the consumer, or through social media here – I mean communication with the client. Whether this involves communicating your role, expectations, results, or expertise – frequent conversations and clear expectations are crucial for your client to understand why PR is an essential part of their business model.

This being said, I have developed a quick guide to “defining the relationship” – the client-agency relationship, that is. Working with multiple agencies has allowed me to observe several approaches to the client-agency relationship. Here are four steps to ensure that your agency is a valuable resource that your client won’t want to let go.

  1. Establish clear expectations – While this may seem obvious, make sure your client fully understands the role of public relations and how it relates to the goals of their company. The depth of misunderstanding within the organization about the activity and value of PR may surprise you. Having a straightforward conversation gives you the opportunity to clarify your role, identify their needs, establish expectations, and create a short and long term plan. The best agency relationships are built on transparency and trust.
  2. Get educated– When establishing a PR strategy, ensure that you are well versed on the company’s business model, competitive landscape, enterprise priorities and market share so your strategy is in line with the goals of the senior team.  Staying up to date with their priority list and linking PR tactics to company goals will emphasize your value and support career longevity. Be accountable for agreed-upon deliverables and establish a sense of urgency.
  3. Be the right hand man – The client-agency relationship should be a partnership. This means that your client should not only see you as an extension of their team, but a component that they cannot live without. You don’t want to be just an extra piece that gets discarded when times get tough. Be open with the client. This sometimes means going out of your comfort zone to accommodate your clients’ needs and being open to taking on new tasks and projects.
  4. Highlight measurable results – The nature of public relations sometimes makes it difficult to find a direct correlation between PR tactics and tangible business outcomes. Write out definite, measurable objectives and make it a priority to explain the role that PR has played to produce measurable results – this can be done through lead generation, search engine page rankings, revenue growth, or social media analysis. Use past success stories to highlight your role in company growth and profitability for companies in related industries.

So there you have it. Your short and sweet guide to establishing a relationship built on trust and transparency. Liza Jones recently wrote a post on our blog that examines the flip side of this discussion. Check out her post Are you a good client? to examine both sides of the PR partner relationship.

I would love to hear your thoughts on building an effective and lasting client-agency relationship. How do you see the client-agency relationship evolving?

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