Dear client, those of us on the agency side who work on your business have a little secret to let you in on... to get the best work from your agency partner... YOU NEED TO BE GREAT TO WORK WITH!
Having been on the consultancy side of the business for most of my adult life, I can unequivocally tell you that clients who are pleasant, respectful, collaborative and open-minded will get primo work from their agency.
It boils down to simple human nature; people want to be treated with respect and that includes being spoken to in a professional manner. Period. Being nice in today's rapid, on the go world seems like a "nice to have" but frankly, I think it's table stakes in the client/agency partnership.
Those who work in agencies are considered to be in the services business, but please do not confuse what we do as "servitude." Clients are not privileged masters and should not communicate with us in a manner that fringes on rude, cruel or obnoxious. No matter how much money you throw at an agency, you need to be worthy as a human being first to get great work done for you, your company and on behalf of your brand. Be respectful, because manners count.
Fortunately, most of the clients I have worked with have been incredible individuals who have not only been splendid clients, but instrumental in my own business success, many of which I have forged friendships with that have lasted well beyond our professional relationship. However, I have seen some terrible bedside manner from a few clients over the years. And oddly enough, it's the clients who have referred to us as suppliers that tend to be the least nice to work with. Go figure?
Don't get me wrong, clients should be tough, demanding and challenge mediocrity but communicate with your agency in a professional manner.
But being nice isn't enough, that's just one part of getting great work from an agency. An external agency works best with a client who understands the PR process, who is engaged and embraces new ideas.
Along with being nice, here are four other ways clients can start to re-tool and rethink how they work with their agency partner. In turn, you will get what you want most, great results and a motivated agency team.
1. Place someone who respects the client/agency relationship to manage the agency. Managing an agency requires a creative marketer who has the authority to sign off on plans and budgets. If we commit to have professionals counselling your business, then please have a client contact that we can have meaningful discussions with and get the right direction from each and every time.
2. Inform your agency on everything they need to know about your company, including brand challenges and expectations. And don't change the goal posts on us mid-project. Be open and honest and don't lie to your agency about anything, and moreover, be upfront about your budget parameters. The better the briefing we get at the onset, the better work you get.
3. Please be open to new ideas. Colour outside the lines with us and be receptive to a new way of thinking. Don't be a constant fire hose on our counsel or creative concepts. You hired PR experts, so let us do exactly what you hired us to do. You'll be amazed at what we can do if you loosen the leash. If the brand manager is the architect of the brand, then let us help you build it.
4. Be engaged, present and proactive in the PR process. Nothing is worse than when a client hires an agency, briefs them, then suddenly the client contact goes AWOL. Your agency does not work in a silo, we need constructive dialogue, collaboration and direction throughout the life of the PR program. This will ensure that we are on strategy, target, budget and there are no surprises.
The client/agency partnership is a two-way street. You demand stellar results, on time and on budget from your agency partner, and in turn your agency should insist on an engaged client that motivates and stimulates the process.
Just remember, it's the little things that count -- a few kinds words to your agency goes a long way to net big returns.
Be nice, it's not that hard.
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