January is always a time of new beginnings and traditionally one when new agency/client relationships are forged. But what is the secret to a great partnership? Here are my pointers to creating a successful client/agency partnership that will stand the test of time.
Step 1: Start as you mean to go on –
The courtship stage between a client and a prospective agency may be long or short, but making sure there’s a genuine meeting of minds before you embark on a working partnership is vital. Traditional RFP processes are not conducive to building strong partnerships, couched as they are in bureaucratic form filling and PowerPoint slides, which seldom give either party a genuine glimpse of what working together would really be like. A much better approach is to do your research properly and invest time and energy in finding an agency that genuinely has experience of your specialist market and can demonstrate case studies that show real examples of what they’ve done for others facing the same challenges as you. Talk to journalists, analysts, other marketing managers and work colleagues and draw up a shortlist of candidates and then invest time in getting to know them and understanding how they operate.
Step 2: Invest time in the partnership –
Ensure that your executive team is fully supportive of your plan to appoint a PR agency. Assuming you do your research well, the agency that you choose already knows your market and has established relationships with the media and analysts that you need to influence. Like any new employee, they will need to quickly get up to speed with your plans, media assets, messages and differentiators in order to develop a PR plan customised to your goals. A quick PowerPoint presentation or glance at the company website will not be enough to achieve this. Make sure that the agency account team spends quality time with your executive team to fully understand, brainstorm and plan the months ahead.
Step 3: Foster a relationship based on mutual trust and respect –
Any relationship, whether business or personal, only works if based on mutual trust and respect. If you’ve made a good agency choice, then the account team will add value and will work alongside you to develop a customised PR plan to deliver on your shared goals. Like any professional consultancy relationship, it’s vital to be honest and open and take advice from the agency on matters such as how to maximise media interest or when best to time a release to get maximum coverage.
Step 4: Give feedback and encouragement –
To get the best out of the agency/client partnership you must invest both time and energy and have honest and open discussions about progress against objectives. Like any internal employee, an agency account team will work harder for a client that acknowledges success as well as is willing to sit down and figure out how to learn from things that don’t work out quite as well. Don’t rely on email conversations and take the time to sit down face-to-face when possible to share ideas and exchange information.
Step 5: When it’s time to say goodbye
From time to time you will want to take stock of progress and ensure that it is still a good fit between you. Over time, when personnel on both the agency or client side changes, or as goals or the business focus on either side evolves, it may be necessary to find a new partner. If that happens, it’s important to be professional as the tech PR world is a small one and chances are you will encounter these people again. Make sure that you communicate your concerns to the agency and see if there is a way to address the issues without parting company. However, if that doesn’t work and a change of direction is necessary, don’t try and side-step the contractual obligations or allocate blame but work towards a smooth transition that works for both parties.
Dianne is the founder of éclat Marketing and is responsible for keeping our B2B tech clients happy as well as bringing new ones into the fold. She has heaps of experience in launching tech companies in the UK and loves a good challenge when it comes to getting stand out coverage in the top tier national and business press. In her spare time she works for a local charity organising an annual music festival called Gig on the Green to raise money for sports in the local community.
éclat is a PR agency specialising in IT Security, Broadcast, Mobile, Cloud & Managed Services. For more information about how we can help with your marketing, give us a call on 01276 486000.