Written by: Jasmine Chen
Like all relationships, a client-agency one relies on trust, transparency and an ongoing commitment from both parties.
The course of the relationship is very much like a marriage that starts with a wedding (contract signing), followed by the honeymoon period (where both sides are enamoured with each other) before settling into the day-to-day minutiae of being in a relationship, warts and all.
And just as a successful marriage improves over time, a successful client-agency relationship can help a brand build its public profile, achieve its business targets, remedy previous communication challenges and amplify a brand’s potential and capabilities.
So when embarking on a new relationship with your financial services PR partner, here are our four suggestions for giving yourself the best chance of making it work.
1. Clear brief
Having a clear understanding of the business’s goals and strategy helps your PR partner decide where they can best support you in achieving this outcome, whether it’s increasing brand awareness, launch of a new product, service and program or thought-leadership.
A key component to this is identifying and understanding your target audience. Your PR partner should be able to help you look beyond the demographics of the audience to uncover your ideal customers’ needs, hopes and pains from which you can hone your brand’s messages in a way that will make sense to the customer. These ideal customers are called personas and should best reflect the ‘voice of your ideal client.’ We’ve written about personas and personalising your financial services content previously.
2. Communicate and collaborate
Consistent two-way communication and a high level of involvement is needed from both parties. From the PR partner’s perspective, this may mean quick access to your key spokespeople for media opportunities (often in reaction to what’s happening in the media on the day), being open to new story angles/ideas and timely turn-around in sign-offs on communication materials.
Feedback is also essential from both sides. If you think your PR partner is not meeting your expectations, let them know, so they can make any necessary adjustments to either their approach and/ or account structure. If they’re not open to listening and adjusting if appropriate, the relationship is already off to a rocky start.
On the agency side, we initiate ‘kind truth’ conversations with our clients when their behaviours aren’t helpful. Sometimes this is for reasons beyond their control. But, the simple act of highlighting what both parties need helps open up a frank conversation, from which, mutual understanding builds empathy and trust.
3. Setting realistic expectations
Both clients and agencies are responsible for managing and setting realistic expectations. Agreeing on the KPIs together ensures both parties have a better understanding of what success looks like and how to work back to a tactical plan that achieves them.
As a service company, your PR partner’s inputs are time and expertise. Too much time spent on account management, long email chains and unnecessary phone calls means less time for your agency to harness their expertise in implementing and executing on the planned media activities.
To ensure efficient use of everyone’s budget and resources, we recommend establishing an account rhythm during the kick-off period to ensure both parties stay on track. This includes regular tactical calls, weekly budget updates, monthly KPI check-ins and quarterly/ annual PR strategy reviews. This rhythm provides a discipline that ultimately leads to better results.
Trust is the bedrock of any healthy relationship and it’s no different with your PR agency relationship. A good PR partner sees themselves as an extension of your internal team, providing expertise in media advice and ongoing counsel. They trust you to keep them informed, give them access to spokespeople and to have accurately shared the company’s vision. You need to trust that their objectives are to deliver the best possible outcomes from your PR program.
Involving your PR agency team in business strategic planning whenever possible, gives your PR agency opportunities to be proactive and also bring another valuable point of view to your business. They are also attuned to finding new publicity opportunities and many “big ideas” have been as a result of the agency better understanding the business strategy. The tighter they’re “in”, the better their advice will be.
In the highs and lows of any long-term relationship, there will be times when the relationship is tricky. These times aren’t necessarily a prompt for retendering the business, but rather, a time for asking whether the relationship is worth working on. And being honest with your PR partner is a good start, because, it takes two to tango.