Working with a public relations agency can take many first-time clients by surprise. The time involved, the level of information sharing, and expectation management are just some of the items that need to be addressed to create a successful working relationship from the outset.
Based on my fourteen years as the head of The Boreland Group Inc, a New York City public relations agency, and representing many clients who had never used the services of a PR firm, I’ve outlined five “need to know” items that will foster a strong client/agency partnership.
1. Clients need to share information, even if it’s sensitive. You can always have the agency sign an NDA. This sharing is a must in order for PR professionals to best service and assist your company, especially in times of crisis.
2: This sometimes occurs: a PR firm excitedly announces a great success and then are surprised when the client doesn’t share their enthusiasm. How to avoid this? Make sure you and your PR partner share the same definitions of success, which should be clearly defined at the relationship’s outset.
[Related: Quotes About Defining Success]
3: Be crystal clear when discussing expenses. Outlining what expenses are to be covered and providing a cap on individual charges will prevent unpleasant surprises on both sides.
4: I once had an account that officially started on a Monday. The previous Sunday, The New York Times had a cover story related to the client’s industry. The next morning, the client called me, steaming, demanding to know why her firm wasn’t included. “We just started representing you today,” I replied. “The article you saw was already written and filed before we signed the contract. There was no way you could have been included.”
This anecdote serves to illustrate that outcomes don’t happen overnight — or, in this case, before the account even launches. Patience is required, as the start of an account usually involves creating media lists, developing editorial calendars, conducting a brand awareness audit, investigating speaking opportunities, researching social media influencers and the like. This foundational work needs to be done to ensure long-term success. Once the basics are completed, results will begin to flow in.But it won’t start on the first day — maybe not even the first month — and that needs to be understood.
[Related: Crisis Management in the Post Truth Era]
5: A public relations agency is your partner, not your friend. It is their responsibility to be totally honest and provide counsel that you may not want to hear. Hard advice can be uncomfortable, but you’re hiring the agency for their expertise, and it is their responsibility to provide it.
Working with a public relations company can help you to achieve your business goals. A clear understanding of how to work with the firm will guarantee that those objectives are met.
Jennefer Witter is the CEO/Founder of The Boreland Group (TBG -www.theborelandgroup.com), a New York City public relations agency specializing in corporate and executive visibility. TheStreet.com recognized TBG as one of five black-owned PR firms in the country “making a buzz.” Witter is the author of “The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Get Your Small Business Noticed” (AMACOM).