As a digital agency, one thing we strive for is regular, open and honest communication with our clients; and keeping them happy is just one of the many reasons why this is so important. In this week’s PR insight blog, I wanted to run through how to make the relationship between a PR team and client work like a dream, so that campaigns perform better overall and everyone’s happy.
Those working in both PR agency roles and businesses appointing an agency will hopefully find the following helpful:
PR is a fast-paced environment and reacting to the changing news agenda quickly is really important, especially in the case of piggybacking PR and reactive statements. That’s why, where the client and PR relationship is concerned, you need near-instant forms of communication. The PR team might need the client to sign off a reactive statement, to be amongst the first to get a comment on the topic in front of the right journalists (and that’s a game of speed); or the client might need to get in touch with the PR team about a crisis that needs managing urgently.
For this reason, we don’t just rely on email for communication. Emails can be lost, missed or accidentally diverted to the junk folder. Calling on the phone is the best option (which is why it’s important to have one another’s mobile contact details), but aside from calls we use platforms and tools like Skype, Slack and event Whatsapp groups for quick responses. Campaigns will perform better with speedy sign-off for the more pressing angles and rapid replies.
This one works both ways; from the client’s point-of-view, they’ll want nothing but honesty from the PR team. This includes the kind of feedback certain campaigns or stories has received from journalists, what coverage is in the pipeline and how well they think an idea will perform based on experience. That last one is especially important, as if the PR team say they have faith in an idea/angle when they don’t, and it ultimately fails because it was never going to work, the team will be left looking rubbish at their jobs and the client will be pissed at the lack of results. The client also has to be honest with the PR team; if they have a crisis on their hands that they need the PR team to deal with, hiding or holding back information is only going to hinder the activity and potentially lead to even more of a crisis.
- Regular catch ups
I think it’s important for a PR team to act as an extension of the client’s team, so they are almost like in-house employees. There’s no reason why, with the communication platforms I mentioned earlier, this can’t happen. When working with a new brand, it’s good to try and spend some time in their offices to get a feel for the company and see how the team works; which makes the relationship stronger in the long run. Regular catch ups throughout any campaign are very important to keep everyone informed of plans, progress and results. Weekly/fortnightly calls and regular meets (monthly or whatever suits) work well to keep relations sweet.
- Under-promise, over-deliver
It’s easy to over-promise. A journalist could tell you that your story will definitely be going live on their website soon, or front of the paper the next day, only for it to get pulled at the last minute (by which point you’ve already excitedly told your client). It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, so PR teams are best waiting until they have actual evidence it’s happening (like something they can link to) before going to the client with the good news. If you’re constantly over-promising, the client could be left disappointed, but if you just big-up the good things that are actually happening, the campaign will seem like more of a success.
No one knows the business better than the client; and whilst the PR team may listen to the brief and come up with some great ideas, the client might have a few things up their sleeve that could take an idea from a silver to a gold. When PR teams involve clients in their ideas sessions and talk to them about things that are going on within the company (which may not have been known at first, but may form the base of a great campaign idea) campaigns can flourish. Just remember what I said earlier though and make sure you let clients know if an idea is a bad one.
Relationships between clients and PR teams can make or break campaigns, so it’s really important to heed this advice and try to make the partnership the best it can me.