November 5, 2015

The Secret Sauce to Creating an Effective Client-Agency Relationship

In any service oriented field there are expectations to be set and achievements to be celebrated. And for all that to take place, I like to think there is a formula that produces optimal results.

When I start working with a new client, vendor or team member I take every person’s opinion as an opportunity to collaborate, learn and get creative. Regardless if I agree with their perspective or way of doing things, I’ve always believed that I am still gaining something from that unique situation. However, on the flip side, I know there are a few simple rules/ways of getting the most out of a relationship with clients, vendors or employees and they go a little something like this:

  1. Set expectations and be realistic: As much as people try to say they enjoy the unknown or “living on the edge” that is not true when it comes to business, so an easy way to set yourself up for success with a client relationship is to set clear expectations, so there isn’t any gray area (or at least you have minimized the chance of having any gray area as much as possible). Be crystal clear about typical lead times, expected coverage, feedback and anything else that might give more insight into the crazy world of public relations.
  2. Assign a point of contact: We lean on our clients to set us up for success just as much as they lean on us to increase awareness and land quality coverage for their brand. A major component of having consistency in a campaign is by simply having one main point of contact for all approvals, calls, questions, etc. Having too many hands in the pot is a recipe for confusion and disaster. For example, having several very busy people on a weekly status call can be a big “time-waster” and something that is easily avoidable. (Note: If you find yourself dialing in and pressing mute for the duration of the call, then you’re definitely wasting your time.) When budgets are slim and time is of the essence, it is important to utilize every minute and every employee to the best of your ability.
  3. Treat others as you would like to be treated: With any working relationship, you want to feel respected and that your opinion matters, so when establishing a strong and positive client-agency foundation, know that we are all on the same team. We all want to see the fruits of our labor and put our client in the spotlight. Plus, when we all band together the power is much greater – resistance and miscommunication can easily be dodged if my two points above are in place.
  4. Open the lines of communication: Time and time again, we express that nothing is ever guaranteed in public relations, but when that hit you have been waiting months for comes through, it is like a storm and you don’t know which way it will sway you; but it is likely in a forward movement and you will probably never look back. Media is unpredictable to say the least, so we, public relations professionals, have to be honest and over-communicate to our clients 24/7. If something is not working, we want to know. If something is hitting hard, we want to know. If there are new partnerships and announcements coming down the pipeline, we need to know and we need to know as early as possible.
  5. Be open to feedback: Be flexible, nimble and receptive. These traits are KEY to a working client-agency relationship and are non-negotiable to achieving success. Clients that are willing to receive feedback, both positive and negative, are on the right track. Even things as simple as minor website updates, flow of a product line sheet, quality of headshots, timeline of product launches or features are key. A client should be willing to experiment with new ideas and trust recommendations in order to mold into the best product or service possible.

I believe that your career, team and clients should challenge you, encourage growth and illuminate your personal and professional greatness. These are just a few tips and tricks that have helped me establish and retain client relationships. What is your secret sauce?