The relationship between a public relations counselor and their client is an important one. Whether a small freelance, boutique, or top 10 global PR consultancy, everything comes back to the relationship. The success or failure of the overall business arrangement depends on it.
And while the PR team owns much of the responsibility of managing the relationship, clients also share an essential role in making it work. Here are some ways a client can help build a strong PR partnership:
- Set firm and realistic deadlines. Make sure there is an understanding by both the client and PR counselor of what these deadlines are. Ensure communication is open regarding any changes to the deadline on either side.
- Review agency-produced content and materials in a clear and timely manner. There is nothing worse than being “ghosted” after sending materials to a client for review. Don’t make the PR partner chase down feedback.
- Provide your PR partner with the necessary resources needed to work on your behalf. PR pros are only as good as the information they receive, so give them access to subject-matter experts and executives, along with the relevant business background to do their job.
- Treat the PR team with respect – always. Although there may be differing points of view, if the PR team is truly a partner, they deserve respect. Communicate with integrity and candor.
- Background the PR partner on major organizational changes or projects. Even if these changes don’t directly impact the contracted work, a PR consultant may be asked about other activities of the company or business and should have enough awareness to respond intelligently.
- Recognize they are not the only client their PR partner has. The consultant may answer to many clients, but even so, it is a two-way street, and the client should also feel like they are valued and appreciated.
- Play the “urgent” card only when necessary. If everything is an emergency, then nothing is an emergency. But if it is truly urgent, the agency’s job is to support the client.
- Eliminate surprises. Clients don’t like surprises, and neither do agency teams. Open lines of communication can eliminate misunderstandings and unexpected occurrences.
- Connect the PR team to the organization and provide access to other company leaders. The PR team is most effective when it can see opportunities and understand the workings of the full organization – not just the singular project at hand.
- Praise when appropriate and criticize constructively. Yes, PR consultants are paid for their time, and yes, they still appreciate thanks and appreciation for a job well done. Likewise, when the PR team misses the mark, that should be communicated with explanation and care.
- Allocate adequate budget to complete the PR program effectively. When planning a PR program, it is essential to give the team enough funding to do it well. Trying to short-change a budget for communications usually leads to short-changed outcomes and results.
- Stay within the scope of work – or grow the partnership collaboratively. Scope “creep” is a great challenge for PR firms. If more work outside the current scope is needed, then the client and consultant should work together to craft a new scope and budget.
- Invite your PR partner to meetings that will educate, inform, or improve their work. Being “in the room” to listen to important client conversations and planning sessions positions the PR team to recognize additional communications opportunities or risks.
- Make the PR partner an extension of the internal team – never an afterthought. The best thing a client can do for its PR team is to keep it engaged in the workings and decision-making of the business. A “seat at the table” creates opportunities, reduces friction, and ensures alignment for PR partners.
While each PR consultant or firm has its own best practices and ways of managing client partnerships, these elements will certainly bring improvement to every PR/client relationship.
Hinda Mitchell is president and founder of Inspire PR Group, a national, multi-service public relations firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. She has worked in communications agencies for nearly 30 years. Hinda can be reached at Hinda@InspirePRGroup.com.
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