Opinion: Leader - PR firms must dump unprofitable clients

The description of the state of the PR industry in the Pace Partnership and Willott Kingston Smith qualitative study of market trends across the marketing services industry, released this week, supports widespread anecdotal evidence from among agencies.

Too many are allowing the competitiveness of the market to cloud their judgement when it comes to working with unprofitable clients. Coming just a week before the publication of our annual Top 150 survey, it offers the perfect small-scale illustration of the day-to-day problems that beset agency chiefs. How many bosses have not felt at some stage recently that they are wasting energy pitching for every piece of business that comes their way, irrespective of whether or not they have a chance of winning it (and it has a chance of making them some money)? Similarly, where is the consultancy chief who genuinely feels they have never slipped into eager-to-please mode where the line blurs between client satisfaction being a priority and every client demand being cravenly met?

On the upside, the Pace/WKS study identifies accountability as a strength of PR firms, praising the sector for 'responding well to client demands to help measure the results of its work'.

Likewise, the industry was credited with sophisticated methods of client relationship protection, coming second in this category and outperforming advertising, DM and a host of other marketing disciplines.

In terms of how agency bosses can derive solid advice on building growth on the basis of this account of the views of their most successful peers, the researchers are quite specific: 'To build long-term profitable relationships with clients, public/media relations agencies need to determine which clients are truly vital to their prosperity.'

Having the nerve to reject unprofitable clients, then, the craft to deliver for profitable ones (and the wisdom to know the difference) is the challenge for agency chiefs across the board.

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