THINKPIECE: How do you make the relationship between client andagency work in today's economy?

Outcomes rule. Clients hire agencies for results, experience and

strategic counseling. The best agencies maintain their stature by

developing a client relationship built on trust and flexibility.

At times throughout the course of this relationship, original goals and

strategic direction must be shifted or reevaluated. However, when you

and your client do not agree upon a course of action and you know your

client is about to birth an unwise or off-target communications

initiative, how do you keep your client in line? Tell them their baby is

ugly. Clients want help, not hot air.

Client success is driven on honest work, not false flattery. As a public

relations expert, you are required to make recommendations hypothesizing

both positive and negative outcomes of a situation and letting the

client make an educated decision. Any off-target programming is

detrimental to a client in this uncertain economy, not to mention a

direct reflection on an agency's reputation.

Try to prevent the train wreck. If you can't, get off before the


Consider the following scenario: Your client has a national news

conference coming up but the spokesperson feels he or she is prepared

and does not need media training. UGLY.

Or this tale: Your client feels they no longer need your strategic

counseling help. To 'save money,' they've decided to have their sales

staff create news content, but they'd still like you to pitch it


Particularly in this economic climate when clients are precious cargo,

how do you educate your client without derailing a client


Use the current market to your advantage. Pull case studies off the

front page showcasing companies that have tried slingshot PR methods in

the past and have learned the errors of their ways through corporate

downfall and reduced profit lines.

The agency/client relationship requires mutual respect and a trusted

relationship. Mutual respect includes you. This is always easier said

than done, but it is vital to maintain the role of counselor to foster

your client's business and not relegate yourself to purely tactical


Adhere to this advice in your next client meeting. Keep an open ear and

carry a megaphone. They will thank you later when stock prices escalate;

when the company turns a profit as competitors sink; when a crisis

doesn't hit the front-page news; when the train doesn't crash and the

investment in your services pays off.

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