Three years. It is the average duration of the current relationship between client and agency. That average is less than half of what it was 20 years ago and is still falling.
Customers decide to leave a PR agency for a variety of reasons, many of which are completely preventable if you start looking for agencies right from the start.
After running a public relations and marketing agency for the past 15 years, I saw what works and what doesn’t in building an agency-client relationship. Regardless of the type of client, success always begins with a strong partnership based on cultural suitability, clarity of roles, and strategic alignment, both in objectives and in measuring success.
- In which sectors did you specialize?
A successful agency should have good storytelling skills and a strong relationship with the right journalists, but it will also be helpful to you if an agency is aware of industry trends that affect or will affect your business.
If an agency is a direct participant and an innovative leadership engine in your area of interest, you can be sure that it understands your business and can provide access and insights. This deep industry experience means that they are at the forefront of trends that the media is interested in in your space, so you can add information to these stories and help you make business decisions based on market insights.
- Great. Your work experience fits, but how do you help my company?
Our motto in our office: get to know your customers wherever they are. This is critical to success.
There is a big difference between working for a Fortune 100 technology company with a steady stream of news and expert spokespeople and a smaller company with innovative but almost unrecognizable technology. This includes strategic planning around news announcements, crisis management, and optimized use of each campaign. The other is to create a story with unknown spokespersons and figure out how to inject it into a partner who doesn’t even exist.
Your agency must fully understand where you are in your life cycle to help you reach your next wave.
- Do you understand PR and marketing?
The lines between marketing and PR continue to blur. Find an agency that understands and embraces this evolution and provides additional insights and value beyond traditional media and PR tactics.
We started as a public relations agency, but we added a content marketing team when we saw that our client’s goals could be better achieved through a combination of these concise tactics. Clients don’t like to hire multiple agencies to do the job. Relationships with traditional or social media are not always the only answer; sometimes, some of the blocked content, which consists of a few potential customers stuck in your funnel, can have a greater impact.
- How do you measure success?
The PR industry is known for the challenges it faces for success. Find an agency that can clearly define how it will link program results to your business goals.
Is the analysis and analysis that your agency will provide meaningful and understandable to your company’s managers and decision-makers? The measurements and data reported by your agency should be guided by the goals and results you hope to achieve.
Years ago, one of the first times that I realized that reports and measurements should be our agency’s top priority was to present our annual results to one of the top executives of one of our biggest clients. He looked at our impressive year-end media data and said, “It looks good, but how did it contribute directly to our business goals?”
- Who will be on my team and how much turnover do you have?
The agencies legally built a reputation for bait and commerce. The agencies impress potential clients with informative insights and analysis from senior executives, but after closing the deal, the work is outsourced to a junior team. This is how the agencies earn: they transfer jobs to cheaper and less qualified workers and increase profitability.
Also, ask about turnover. Agencies have a notoriously high turnover of around 30% and the impact on their PR success can be significant. Consider independent agencies with a strong track record of building customer and employee loyalty.
- What would your customers say that you enjoy working?
Your agency needs to expand its team. Just as you want a good cultural culture when renting a new home, your agency must also overcome this obstacle.
As with the recruitment process, a referral is the best way to find out what unique features your potential agency will offer and where there is still potential for improvement.
Agencies have many creative tools at their disposal to impress you with their offerings, but checking references will bring you exactly the kind of results and experience you can expect in a client-agency relationship.
- What is your business philosophy and how do you manage your business?
Who runs the business? What kind of profitability index are you looking for? How many new activities do you introduce each year? What will happen to my team if you need to answer the numbers if your agency belongs to a PE company or an open holding company?
All of these issues are important to get an idea of how an agency is run. The way an agency manages its business affects the way it manages its business. When an agency is transparent about how to run its business, it impacts customers; it is one of the main causes of low turnover of clients or consultants.
There is another consideration
Asking the right questions can put you on the right path, but you also need to know what the right answers are for your company.
Thinking about your strategic goals and providing a clear picture of how your team can lead, support, and direct an agency is the key to evaluating and interviewing a new agency and, ultimately, building a good partnership with an agency that you and you deliver the best potential for success.