There is no shortage of reasons why a company will seek out new PR representation, but here I'm summarizing three points made to me by a number of new business prospects that have recently ended their working relationships with their PR agencies.
While, naturally, the details of each situation have varied, consistently these three topics have emerged in discussions with organizations that have contacted Matter for public relations, social media, or creative services support. If you care to lose a client, here are three steps to make that happen:
1. Glaringly obvious but often overlooked: the PR agency takes its eyes off its client's business objectives. In general, if the team strays from why it was hired in the first place, it will doom its chances of being a long-term partner. Inevitably, at some point during the program, the agency will measure its performance against established metrics. In the spirit of maintaining a happy and healthy relationship with your client, it behooves agency teams to review the metrics and the subsequent overall objectives regularly throughout the program to be certain the team is on track. Alignment with overall business objectives is a key part of the process.
2. Put client service on the back burner. Some people just “get” client service. They entered the work world with a solid understanding that a business is only as good as its customer base, so without instruction, they know to find the way to work that benefits both the client and the business. They “get” that you need to be smart and savvy, but also responsive, reactive, and available. Others, however, need to be trained to be this way. The latter category of professionals occasionally need to be reminded that good client service is capable of keeping a client or company relationship moving forward, and that it can be a differentiator between agencies. Another group just never gets it, and those people will cost you clients.
3. The agency partner is so rigidly structured that it can't deal with clients' immediate and, perhaps, evolving needs. In brief, a PR agency team needs to be nimble. (Blogger's note: I love “nimble” and use it often to describe our teams here at Matter.) Few are the public relations or social media programs that “stay the course” from strategy to execution, so never should a team expect to execute only what was discussed early-on. PR agency teams need to react – with gusto – when called on by a client for a change in strategy or specific tactical needs, and doing otherwise doesn't bode well for the long-term relationship.
I consistently hear the above from new business prospects who have ended their relationship with their PR agencies – are you hearing the same?
Scott Signore is principal and CEO of Matter Communications.