A good client-agency relationship is a partnership. At least it should be. But too often it’s relegated to a transactional relationship – something we hear often in a new business environment.

One of the problems is the length of the relationship. In 1984, the average client-agency relationship tenure was 7.2 years. By 1997, that number declined by 25% to 5.3 years. Today the average client-agency tenure is thought to be less than three years. If that number continues to fall, people will be switching agencies every 6 months!

Trust is the most pivotal part of any working relationship now more than ever. If your agency doesn’t earn your trust early on then it’ll be very hard to get impactful results. While it’s the agency’s responsibility to gain the trust – you as the client need to give them the chance to prove themselves so that they can churn out the results for you, the client.

What’s needed to build a lasting long term relationship and ensure your long-term growth? What should you expect from your PR agency? While the list isn’t exhaustive, here are my 7 things:

#1 Responsiveness
Your agency should have consistent communication with your team to make sure they’re aligned with you. They should be learning everything they can about your business. Agencies need to ask the right questions to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. By doing so the media relations and content writing team can translate the passion that you have for the business to the media and your audience to create impactful storylines.

#2 Proactiveness
On the other side of the coin, your team needs to show the initiative to get the campaign moving and maintain momentum. This doesn’t mean not giving them any input into content ideas or strategy, but it does mean they have the know-how and experience to identify opportunities, make suggestions, look for new angles and create campaigns without being spoon-fed.

#3 Valuable deliverables
It’s not enough to expect just some ROI numbers based on advertising equivalents anymore. We’ve moved way past that and there are so many more metrics to consider. Which means it’s good to agree with your agency what you exactly want and expect from a campaign. Whether that’s lead generation, raising awareness, social link clicks from coverage, volume of coverage, targeted press etc. These should be established at the start so that the campaign can be tailored around the deliverables and then continually tracked and measured against throughout the relationship.

#4 Onboarding sessions
Your agency should be taking the time to get to know you and an effective way to do this is onboarding sessions. The agency needs time with your wider to team to understand the company messages and its business goals. Without your input, even the best PR team will struggle to get good results. In addition, these sessions shouldn’t be a one-off, but can add real value throughout the relationship and as your business and goals evolve.

#5 Good industry knowledge
Most agencies will already have a good understanding of your industry due to previous experience but if you are a new area to them, then the agency needs to get up to speed on the latest trends and news stories. And keep up to date. A lot of this information can be gleaned from the onboarding sessions and early-stage research.

#6 Creativity
This is the one that is at the top of the list for many clients. Creativity is the ingredient that is going to make you stand out from the others and will stick in the mind of the customer and shouldn’t be forgotten in the B2B world. It’s an integral part of every campaign. So, of course, creativity is something to expect from your agency. It’s what many agencies invest a lot of money in to make sure they’ve got the edge.

#7 Specialist team
Are your team playing to their strengths? This may seem obvious but it’s missed by a lot of people. A lot of the time PR agencies use a team of generalists – everyone does a bit of everything from media relations to content writing. While this is a great experience for the team, it’s not beneficial for the client. You want everyone playing to their strengths, which means having a dedicated content writer that knows your tone of voice and consistently churns out high-quality content. A dedicated media relations specialist who can focus on the relationship with the journalists to guarantee placements in top tier publications. These are the people that will be working on your account day in day out so make sure to know they’re utilising everyone’s skills.

Choosing an agency can be a long and painful process but hopefully, my 7 tips make the next time you switch agency a bit less painful and will go a long way to cementing that long-term relationship with your next agency.

By John Broy, Chief Client Officer


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