I’ve been reflecting on the past ten years of managing clients here at Matter, and another decade before that at other agency stops. And while my peers often write about “what makes a great PR client,” I think it’s equally instructive to examine the reasons why a handful of client relationships were doomed from the start:
1. The worst PR clients enter into a working relationship with their agency (and specifically their PR team) knowing exactly what they want – and are merely looking for the arms and legs to get the work done. They are not open to creative suggestions nor sound strategic thought. They don’t want thinkers, but rather only doers. They have a myopic perspective of the task at hand and are far from appropriately leveraging the experience of their team with whom they will work to achieve broader success.
Working in this capacity immediately diminishes the ROI of partnering with an agency that offers clients varying perspectives, opinions and leveragable experience. This invariably leads to trouble. It’s the equivalent of sticking with your starting pitcher even though your relievers are the best in baseball. (We don’t have that luxury here in Boston, but you get the point.) Leveraging talented resources to develop a smart go-to-market strategy is the best way to partner with a PR and social media agency, and the worst clients view PR firms as simple vendors hired to implement, and not create.
2. The worst PR clients think success can be achieved without their involvement. They check the box off by going through some RFP or PR agency solicitation – typically ambiguous with very little content related to the task at hand or the decision-making process – and sign up with a new firm. Check. Done. Let’s move on. Unfortunately, that’s not good for either party and when it’s done that way, business-driving results are not generated and the relationship typically fails.
While we pride ourselves on a “painless ramp-up” for new public relations and social media clients and we do all we can to minimize the impact of getting started, we know that we need ammunition to win our war. That is, we need to know a client’s business objectives and the overall organizational direction. Tactically, we need key information related to our pitch, challenges that the client may have faced previously, and we need the time and attention of spokespeople. Yes, we need spokespeople. It’s surprising the amount of good that can be accomplished by an un-armed PR team, but you can only operate in a vacuum for so long. True partners understand they have to put some skin in the game and actually work with their PR agency – not against it.
What do you see are the common traits of the worst PR clients? Let me know.