Can most dysfunctional client-agency relationships be saved?
In some cases it is time for a change, but most can be saved. One of the biggest complaints from clients is agency turnover, particularly when agencies shift staff around because something more exciting comes up and, as a result, the long-term client doesn't feel valued anymore. In this case, the agency needs to be transparent—tell the client why that account person is leaving, and provide a solution. You can also say things like, ‘We are committed to this transition and prepared to invest X number of hours so that this doesn't impact your business in any way.' It just demonstrates to the company that they're a valued partner regardless of the size of the budget or how long they've been with you.
How can companies maintain stronger communications with their agencies?
I am big in encouraging regular 360-degree meetings—an opportunity for both sides of the table to share satisfaction levels. An agency should never be surprised if they are fired. Nor should a client be surprised if the agency has been disappointed by their relationship. I think there should be two-way communication… And I think a lot starts at the top. The agency leader may not be involved in the day-to-day dealings of a particular account, but they should be having regular calls with the president of their clients. It isn't just about doing the grip-and-grin, but a regular call where you can go through a specific agenda. It is a way to streamline everything, and keep the dialogue open.
How can companies maximize their PR spend?
That is what a lot of companies are reaching out to us for right now. We have an agency scorecard system to make sure the client is working with best-of-breed agencies. We can also help them better integrate campaigns. Juniper Research says integrated campaigns boost revenues four times more than stand-alone campaigns. I think a lot of companies go to agencies and ask for an integrated campaign, but internally they are not integrated. They need to integrate their own organization, so they can get that value and increase their revenue.