Relationships are tough, including those between companies and agencies. PR firms are at a disadvantage in this buyer's market. But they still must consider who is the "right" client to add to their roster, and protect themselves from deadbeats.Both tangible and intangible considerations need to go into the decision to engage with a company - even when the financial lure is powerful. Agencies need to assess the potential success of an engagement, particularly in a business that is largely defined by the character of the relationship - perhaps even more powerfully than measurable results. Peppercom is an example of an agency that has drawn up its own "rules of engagement" to try and define the expectations of the client-agency interaction. The document includes the clear expectation that invoices will be paid in 30 days, and that the first month's fee must be paid in advance. It outlines the firm's own commitment to notification of senior staff changes and early alerts if the retainer is to be exceeded. All very sensible, but what I like most about the "rules" is the mission statement at the top, which states that this relationship is a partnership, and that the firm should be viewed not as a third-party vendor, but as a strategic marketing partner. Idealistic? Perhaps. But it is an ideal that is consistent with the core principles of PR, in that a company must be consistent with its message across all forms of communication. The statement sets out an expectation of respect that clients may not necessarily meet, but can't claim to misunderstand.