PR in the age of Tinder - are clients and agencies afraid of commitment?

Having breakfast the other morning with the director of a content agency, he commented that he thought the marketing and PR industry had commitment issues.

Agencies should stop behaving like ladies of the night if they want a long client relationship, argues Mark Stringer
Agencies should stop behaving like ladies of the night if they want a long client relationship, argues Mark Stringer
This intriguing statement made me smile, but also made me realise it’s so true (and I blame Tinder) - the marketing world has become commitment shy.

Agency relationships with clients have changed. 

Clients today appear to be seeking a 'half night' stand (leave before dawn), never mind a one-night stand. 

We should count ourselves lucky if we get a second date, and celebrate if we even get a 'super like' before they stop answering our texts and move on to sample something new.

There are now new rules of engagement; the short-term fix replaces long-term relationship gains. 

The Tinder mindset means brands aren’t looking for retained, loving, mutually beneficial relationships; rather they crave short-term hook-ups with PRs.

So what? Maybe that’s a good thing: more competition, hungrier agencies, better creativity?

No. The danger is that swiping through agencies on a rotating carousel is potentially damaging for brands. 

Agencies have the ability to offer unique strategic counsel and long-term creative development, which is lost when only engaged on projects.

If everyone is constantly bed-hopping, trust can never be built because long-term partnerships aren’t formed on a one-night stand. 

Agencies are as much at fault for acting like "ladies of the night" - they will perform any service the client wants, as long as they get paid for it.

Mark Stringer, founder & CEO PrettyGreen
And to service a client properly (that one’s not an innuendo) requires a commitment to fees.

It’s easier (as an agency head) to place the blame on clients, to say that it’s all their fault - that they are missing out on really harnessing and utilising some of the best strategic and creative minds in the marketing industry. 

But that’s both naïve and wrong.

Agencies are as much at fault for acting like "ladies (or gentlemen) of the night" - they will perform any service the client wants, as long as they get paid for it. 

Until this stops and agencies start demonstrating the long-term value that they can bring to a client, and the short-term folly of one-night stands, the situation is not going to change.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of love in the industry and a lot of clients and agencies who are married, and have been together for a long time. 

However, it’s not the norm and we can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

But what we can do is look at the value chain. What do we want from our agencies and what do we want from our clients? 

We all know that the more time we spend with our partners, the more effort we put in to helping them feel special; and the better we feel about ourselves, the better the results.

So we might hate having dinner out on Valentine's Night, as it always feels more like forced love, but "hands up" who doesn’t feel better knowing that a loved one (be it a client or agency) is there to support them, through sickness and in health, for better or worse?

Mark Stringer is founder & CEO at Pretty Green

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