Clients have greater expectations for PR firms

Why should 2012 be any different than prior years in terms of what clients want from their PR agencies? Several reasons come to mind.

Why should 2012 be any different than prior years in terms of what clients want from their PR agencies? Several reasons come to mind.

First, the client learning curve about PR deliverables has reached a level of maturity in which clients better understand the "value" component of what they get for what they spend. More diverse agencies now compete more often for assignments from big brands because buyers of PR services are much more discerning about ROI, senior involvement, and the level of engagement in their business. Additionally, a turbulent and volatile business landscape has heightened the instinct to get more for less and make every marketing, and thus PR, dollar productive. It's even safe to say that more creativity, strategy, and actionable tactics will have to be given away during the courtship phase to create a sale.

So once the sale is made, what are the key client expectations in 2012 that need to be satisfied by the PR agency to sustain a marriage? Here are five that may be helpful:

Business and market intelligence
There is immense value serving as an "over-the-horizon" warning system and “trusted advisor” about markets, competitors, and mediating forces that will affect your client's enterprise. This requires a 24-7 commitment and vigilance to continuously gather insights to provide input around which business, not just marketing, decisions can be made by the client.

Holistic mindset
PR campaigns must not just be strategic but also holistic, accounting for or actually integrating every possible useful communications vehicle - digital and traditional media, word of mouth, influentials, and mobile - in a campaign in which clients expect agencies to be disciplined about how budgets are deployed.

Efficiency
The new business normal in today's volatile global economy is definitely about "doing more with less.” The efficiencies of leveraging big ideas for earned media in multiple formats will be increasingly sought by clients to achieve a broader and more useful footprint and market voice.

Constant connectivity
Relationships matter in 2012 where people are so connected socially; there will be a higher expectation to be equally connected for business in a high-touch, continuous, and meaningful way. Perhaps a paradox as the workforce struggles to multitask and get more things done every day, it will be equally important for agencies to stay engaged with clients and create real relationships in a gadgety world.

Smart tactics, smart outcomes
Because of the increased focus on ROI in volatile times, clients have raised the ante on implementing tactics that can be quickly tied to business impact. The choices of marketing tools in an increasingly digital playing field will create a climate in which PR firms must consistently recommend and deliver the right tools to create more bang, more often, and lead the ongoing strategic conversation on integrated marketing communications.

Mike Greece is managing director of the New York office of The Pollack PR Marketing Group.

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