Relationships are tricky. In romance as well as in business, relationships are about coming together to meet the needs of both parties and achieve a level of satisfaction that couldn’t be reached otherwise. When one party decides that’s no longer happening, a breakup is inevitable. For PR agencies, poor client relationships can lead to client churn, fewer referrals, and eventually damage to the agency’s reputation. But how do you know if you have a good relationship with your client? Here are a few questions to ask.
Do you have a clear vision?
If you and the client were each to articulate the reasons that the client is investing in PR and what they hope to achieve for their brand, would your answers be the same? It is easy to get distracted by day-to-day activities and lose sight of your client’s long term objectives. Talking about them from time to time helps to reassure the client that you are with them for the long haul.
Can you be honest?
Good relationships require candor. If you feel like you can only say “yes” to every client suggestion, your relationship is probably in trouble. Clients are paying for your experience, insight, and expertise. If you feel unable to offer it without reservation, something is amiss.
Are you a partner or an assistant?
If you find that your work is mostly responding to tactical requests, rather than strategic thinking and planning, you could be on the way out. When the services you provide could be done by almost any agency, you aren’t bringing any unique value to the table and the client would be best served by hiring the least expensive firm they can find.
Are you measured on activity or results?
You and your client should have a well-defined set of metrics that define success. Ideally, these should be outcome based and focus on the client’s business objectives such as increased web traffic, leads, and revenue. (Sending out 50 pitches is not a business objective.)
Is the client responsive?
This may seem obvious, but clients who do not respond to your requests for information, press interviews, or updates are likely disengaged either with your agency or PR in general. It is difficult to build a solid relationship if PR is not a priority for your client. If the contact assigned to work with the agency on a daily basis becomes unresponsive, it is a good idea to reach out to the executive sponsor to find out what’s going on.
Have you asked them?
Trust and candor go both ways. It is important that your client know that you are open to an honest discussion about the relationship. Ask for feedback and discuss the client’s intention to retain your agency in the future.
It is a good idea to take a health check of your client relationships against these vital signs from time to time. If you have a relationship in trouble, you can be proactive and try to rebuild the trust and cooperation that are essential for success.