Love-hate relationships with PR and marketing agencies

I’m a big fan of the blog on Econsultancy and yesterday I spotted a post with a headline that was impossible to ignore: Five reasons your clients hate you. Written specifically for those working in SEO agencies, I thought that all of the points in the article were also highly applicable to agency-based PR and marketing professionals:

1. You grind them down with jargon

No-one likes to be made to feel inadequate so don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for your clients to understand what it is that you’re trying to tell them. Forget about the jargon and the inside jokes; instead talk to them openly, honestly and directly. You’ll form far stronger working relationships this way.

2. You don’t show them measurable results

It is notoriously difficult to measure the value of PR coverage. There are plenty of indicators out there, though, that can be used as guideline measures – AVEs, circulation figures, unique web page visitor numbers, and so on. The impact of marketing activity can also be measured if KPIs are set to establish the most important results for the client.

By agreeing with the client what your aims and objectives are on day one, you’ll have something to map your progress against and you’ll be able to assuredly prove your worth.

3. You’re not good with people

We all have bad days, but when you work in PR or marketing, you’re expected to have exceptional “people skills”. If you don’t like picking up the phone or networking, perhaps this field just isn’t for you.

4. They can’t reach you when they want to

Working with agencies can be challenging. For a start, they’re rarely based just around the corner so it’s impossible to have daily face-to-face conversations. But, with Blackberries, iPhones, Twitter and mobile email there’s rarely an excuse for being completely out of contact.

If something big happens that needs containing instantly, you’re not going to please your client if the entire account team is out of reach. Responsiveness is a very common measure of service levels so don’t fall down at this really very simple hurdle.

5. You didn’t manage their expectations

Client-agency relationships often turn sour when results fail to meet expectations. In my experience, far too many agencies forget to ask the client what will be classed as a successful outcome. Clear goals not only make teams more focused, they also ensure that valuable – and often very expensive – time isn’t wasted chasing after the wrong results. That’s just frustrating for everyone.

I’m sure these five points of advice could also be applied to many other industries, so it’s worth keeping them front of mind to ensure that your clients never reach the point where love sadly but swiftly turns to hate.

    A new PR challenge

    Apologies for the lack of recent new posts but I’ve been busy getting my feet under the table in a new PR role over the past few weeks. On the last day of August 2010 I joined the marketing team at Lakeside Shopping Centre in a newly created position: PR Coordinator.

    I’m delighted to report that it’s going incredibly well so far and I’m thoroughly enjoying the new challenge. I wasn’t sure that an in-house position would suit me the way that agency work did, but when I saw this role advertised online I knew that it would be worth making the change.

    My remit is to develop and deliver a local and regional media relations plan, including digital PR, so I’m going to be extremely busy over the next few months. Whilst preparing for the Christmas retail madness and getting stuck in to my new day-to-day work, I’ll try my very best to update this blog more regularly with thoughts, comment and opinion about marketing, PR and other related topics.

    PR strategies for the weird and wonderful

    Last weekend, as a birthday treat, I was taken to Kensington for a foot massage that was delivered by some extremely slippery characters. Promoted as “London’s first fish therapy concept spa”, Aqua Sheko is a boutique-style spa specialising in what it calls “fish pedicures”.

    While I appreciate that it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it to be weird but equally wonderful.

    By chatting to the other customers, I discovered that the spa had only been open for 12 weeks but had already performed particularly well with the regional media. In particular, a husband and wife team preparing for their fish pedicures mentioned the coverage they had seen in the Evening Standard which had directly prompted their visit.

    The local coverage combined with some great word-of-mouth has obviously worked wonders for the small setup which was packed to bursting for the whole hour that I was there, with appointments scheduled solidly throughout the afternoon. It was a delight to be able to witness such obvious and very real success, achieved in such a short period of time.

    Finding an angle that the press and its consumers will love can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. In this instance, the “love it or hate it” nature of the offering seems to have worked wonders for this start up company, and I’m sure that as its smooth-footed customers continue to spread the word, interest in this bizarre new experience will continue to rise and it will earn itself plenty more column inches.