If we were really honest we’d tell you, upfront, we need five things from you.
My colleagues and I have, collectively, worked with several hundred clients, over more than a century of consulting hours. When the client / consulting firm partnership is at its best, it’s because it’s supported by a few strong foundations.
Conversely, on rare occasions, when things go wrong they often do so in predictable and preventable ways.
As a firm we’re increasingly looking at the patterns we see in all aspects of our work.
In this blog I’m sharing what we, and others like us, see as the underpinnings of smashing success in the client/agency relationship. They’re evident from the outset of most partnerships, and, when used skillfully by clients, help you get the most out of the relationship.
First, a note on intent
Typically, we want what you want: to deliver exceptional outcomes, to make you personally look good and, as we do this, to have a strong relationship that helps us deliver great work, on budget.
We have worked with exceptional clients who’ve helped us form a mental model of “a great client”. I’m deeply grateful to have learned more from these CEOs, CMOs and corporate affairs leads about consulting than anywhere else. These people helped me see a few clear patterns with other clients who consistently get in their own road: almost always unintentionally, unconsciously but still making it difficult to reach this shared “happy place” described above.
If we were braver and more honest with you, we’d tell you, and all our potential clients, what these common patterns are, in order to smooth the way. We’d give you a constructive guide to help both parties be at our best.
We’d tell you to take a specific approach to five key things. These are senior access, level of disclosure, conversations about money, turnaround times and deadlines, and finally, the investment of your own time and patience.
I’m not saying you don’t take the right approach already – I’m just saying that the better you get at these things, the better our work and relationship should be. Then, if we don’t get it right for you, it’s likely that responsibility sits with us, not you. There’s always the force majeure clause of course (otherwise known as ‘a meteorite hit us’ or sh*t happens). But assuming no angry God actions… there are things you can do to help us help you.
As a firm we have a differentiating value called ‘kind truth’. It’s from Patrick Lencioni’s 2002 book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and made explicit in terms of consultant/client relationships in his 2006 book Naked Consulting.
So we believe it’s far better, from the outset, for us both to know if we can’t achieve what’s needed in these five areas. It may mean not working together (good!), waiting until the right conditions are in place (we’re busy anyway), or going into the relationship better understanding the challenges ahead (ok now we’re excited!).
All these are far better options than finding out we can’t make it work as well as it should, down the track. By then you’ll have spent valuable internal capital hiring us, a significant portion of your budget and a shedload of your time. And neither you nor we will be enjoying the work or the relationship.
The five things your PR agency needs from you (and why)
- Senior access
- Full (or nearly full) disclosure
- Willingness to understand our pricing
- Reasonable turnaround times
- Quality time & patience
In my next post I’ll go into what #s 1 & 2 look like and why they’re worth doing.
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