The ‘Co’ in Co-Communications is all about collaboration. It’s the core of our agency culture and value that stems far beyond the walls of our offices. In the 16 years since we opened our Westchester public relations agency in Mount Kisco, we’ve expanded not only our geographic reach but our range of services and diversified our client base. Along the way, we’ve found that the question, ‘How do I best work with my PR firm?’ is a common one.
While no two PR/marketing agencies look alike, here are some insights from 16 years of agency-client collaboration:
Make yourself perfectly clear
Sound familiar? It’s not only Co-Communications tagline but our mantra for building and sustaining collaborative client relationships. Just as we let clients know what information and access we need in order to execute PR and marketing campaigns on their behalf, it is important that clients let us know how they want to be communicated with. This may entail communication frequency, communication channel, and communication content. Every single client we have is unique as are their communication preferences. If we email you a status update and you would prefer to schedule a short call to talk through progress, just let us know.
While agencies do their best to anticipate client needs, sadly, we are not always mind readers. If you are headed out of town for a couple of days, going to be offsite for a week of meetings or on deadline and inaccessible, let your agency know in advance. While it can be difficult to predict what the week’s schedule may look like on Monday morning, it is important to avoid scenarios where media are on deadline and asking for an interview when you are unavailable to your PR team.
Beyond anticipating what the agency may need from you, anticipate what you will need from them. We pride ourselves on being agile and responsive but tight deadlines can pose challenges. While your PR/marketing agency will prompt you for a list of upcoming events, news items, etc. we don’t intuitively know that your Tuesday coffee meeting is with a potential strategic partner and that you plan to present them with an updated marketing kit. The more notice you can provide your agency with regarding needs and deadlines the better they will be able to respond to your needs.
Do you want the relationship with your PR/marketing agency to be a partnership or more like a client-vendor relationship? It may sound like a silly question, but no two client-agency relationships look alike. Some organizations prefer their agency to integrate with their internal staff as seamlessly as possible while others prefer to communicate internal news out to the agency. What do these two relationships look like? In general…
When the agency integrates seamlessly with the client’s internal team, agency representatives attend staff meetings, work directly with various departments/program staff and essentially function as another member of the client’s staff. The agency is perceived as a trusted advisor and provides counsel regarding activities and initiatives that, while not direct marketing functions, impact the overall brand and the agency’s marketing plans.
When the agency is treated as a vendor, the primary contact typically reports out any staff needs to the PR/marketing team. Communication between the client and agency is often more transactional – we need a press release, our marketing kit needs a refresh, etc.
While Co-Communications can work with clients in either capacity, we find that the more collaborative our client relationships are, the stronger the results. When we’re ‘on the inside’ we can use our marketing antennae to pick up on activities and initiatives that give us extra hooks to pitch client stories and trigger ideas that can enhance clients’ overall marketing.
The dynamics of every client-agency relationship are unique and Co-Communications prides itself on being able to tailor communications and interactions to best suit clients’ needs. While we pride ourselves on being intuitive, collaborative and results-oriented, we rely heavily on clients for the information we need to be successful working on their behalf (we’re great researchers and happy to source our own data…as for specific company information, we’ll need that from you).
Before you sign-off on working with a public relations agency or marketing firm, consider what type of working relationship will best suit your organization’s needs and yield the best outcomes for your brand. Remember, agencies are far from one-size-fits-all and working with a partner to whom you can trust your brand is imperative.