8 Rules for Being a Good Client
By Dan Chmielewski, PR Manager, Rainbow Technologies
An executive with a B2B organization
recently attended a local PRSA gathering and made his way to each
table. "Im looking for a PR agency," he said. "I thought this
would be a great place to find a good one." He surmised that if
he didnt find one here, hed at least get a good referral.
Clients "looking for a good agency"
use multiple criteria to evaluate an agency, whether they are doing
an initial review or searching for a replacement. The question always
boils down to, "Do you know any good agencies?" Once you find one
and you begin working together, the next question should be, "Am
I being a good client?"
Here are some suggestions:
Spell it out. As
a client, be clear about what you want your agency to do. Are they
your hands-on partner, driving your external communications strategy?
Are they working on tactical implementation of your plan? Or, do
you need them for project work, such as a product launch, trade
show PR, or case study development? Frame the parameters of the
work and clearly define the roles. Manage the relationship so the
defined roles are followed.
Partner with your agency.
Too often, the client-agency relationship can be strained and even
adversarial. This happens regardless of the size of the agency or
the size of the account. Your agency is not your enemy. Your competition
is. Partnering with your agency is the best way to position your
company against your competition while getting the best possible
results from your PR program.
Share information. Your
agency is an extension of your company. Unless Madam Cleo is on
staff, dont expect them to read your mind. Alert them to changes
in plans, policies and market direction. Hold Q&A sessions with
senior management to help your agency understand the reasoning behind
corporate decisions. The more your agency knows about the "why,"
the better they can tell your companys story to the press
and analyst community.
Be patient. Instant
gratification from your PR agency relationship should be against
the law. Even experienced agencies need time to learn about your
company, your products and your industry before they can be truly
effective. Give your agency time to do its homework. Invest in the
time it takes to help your agency understand your company and your
Have realistic expectations.
Not every announcement warrants a full barrage of press calls. For
every editor who hates getting the, "Did you get the release I sent
you?" call, there is an agency person who hates making that call.
Be realistic about your news and your expectations of coverage.
If its an A-1 announcement, your agency will hit the phones
for you. But if your news is about version 8.6 of a legacy product
or a partnership announcement with a company that no one knows,
dont ask your agency to do a full court press. These releases
are important for the sales team or the investment community, but
recognize their true news value. PR people on both sides of the
aisle carefully cultivate relationships with the press, and client-required
press calls for every announcement do more harm than good.
Set reasonable, achievable expectations for your agency. Dont
tell them they have to win five industry awards and win six comparative
product reviews for you this year. The only answer you should get
is, "Well do our best."
Pay your bills on time.
When the bill comes in, pay it. If you ask your agency to do more
than the retainer agreement calls for, expect to pay more at the
end of the month. Remember, your agency is in business to make money
just like you. Make your account one thats profitable for
Manage expectations to senior
management. Always merchandise successes achieved by your
agency to senior management. Most senior management wants three
basic things from their PR agency: good advice, great results and
great value for what they pay for.
Listen. You can
usually tell how smart someone is by the questions they ask. Your
agency will likely have different ways of thinking about things
than you do. Listen to what they have to say. You don't always have
to agree, but consider what they say to you and think
through the idea. Part of being a good communicator is being a good
Lastly, say "Thank you" when a member
of your agencys team does some outstanding work. Dont
forget to drop an email to the agency principal to let them know
about the great job that person did for you. Its fine to be
a demanding client, just make sure you are also an appreciative
one too. It all goes back to being a good partner.
Dan Chmielewski is the public
relations manager for Rainbow Technologies in Irvine, California.
He has 19 years of high technology PR experience, client-side and
agency-side, working for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups in New
York State, Boston and Southern California. In addition, he has
published more than 200 articles in daily newspapers, business publications
and trade magazines. His agency will tell you that he practices
the rules above. Dan Chmielewski can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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