How Clients Should Manage PR Agencies

December 4, 2007 Public Relations 4 comments

How to Clients Can Manage PR Agencies

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Here’s a counter post following my first one on how PR agencies should manage their clients. Hats off to Priscilla Tan who used to work in an agency but will now be joining a global MNC (drool).

Getting the most out of your PR agency doesn’t mean squeezing the life out of them. Conversely, it also doesn’t mean that you just let loose completely and pray everyday that page one news would come on its own. Sorry buddy it doesn’t work that way.

So what can you as a client do to optimise the Client-PR relationship?

1) Set the Parameters from the Start

If you are planning to get BBC, CNN, IHT, and NYT covering your news, then you have to make sure that this is explained to your hired PR hack from the start. Don’t surprise them later by saying that you didn’t score an interview on international media. It is all about managing expectations – yours and theirs.

2) Go Easy on the Phone Calls, SMSes and Emails

One reason why you hire PR professionals to do your pitching for you is precisely because you can’t/ won’t do it yourself. As far as possible, allow them to do their magic in cajoling, negotiating, bribing, wheeling and dealing with the media. Let them update you when the time is right, and refrain from harassing them ad nauseum. Which also brings me to the next point…

3) Don’t Disappear into the Bermuda Triangle

Effective media relations is only possible when both client and agency reps work closely together. This means that there should be constant communication between both parties on what can be done, what cannot be done, as well as the latest updates or developments in a campaign. Vanishing into twillight zone and expecting your agency reps to spin a huge yarn ain’t gonna work.

4) Trust Them, Love Them, but still Check the Facts

Always insist on being the clearing house for all written or official communication materials like press releases and advisories, fact sheets, speeches, boilerplates, quotes and so on.

Don’t expect your PR consultants to read your mind and absorb all the facts through yogic meditation!

5) Insist on Regular Meetings and Updates

This is important. You need to know what the outcomes of campaigns are like on a running basis and not just at the end of the campaign which may be too late. Establish with your consultant what a reasonable frequency is like for Work In Progress (WIP) briefings.

6) Be Forthcoming with Facts, Data and Key Personnel

PR is sometimes called the information business because it is all about that. Anybody who works with a journo would know that facts, figures, and spokespersons are vital. As much as possible, without compromising your organisation’s trade secrets, share information openly.

Don’t shield your key executives from all media queries, because the media (and your PR consultants, though they won’t tell you that of course) hate that. The veil of secrecy may tease sometimes, but not when you expect a feature in Forbes, Business Week and Times magazine.

7) Make an Effort to Learn

Of course you didn’t just fritter away tens of thousands of dollars in agency fees just to do it yourself. However, it does pay to understand and learn about the news making process.

In this regard, ask your agency reps all the questions under the sun about why certain activities can hit the limelight while others fail. Befriend the journalists and editors too and network with them. Once you understand how things work in the “dark side” you would better appreciate what your hired “spin doctors” are doing for you.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. One of my best clients was Cirque du Soleil. The folks there are so passionate about their brand, they know their stuff and they treated the agency as partner with a common goal to meet the objectives and not treating the agency as vendor.

    I realised over the years, it’s always more fruitful working with a client who discusses marketing/ comms plans with you, get inputs from the agency and adjusts expectations accordingly.

    I guess, the other point is also that the client has to be realistic. Understand that unless you pay a huge amount of money to get a team of PR folks assigned to your account, the PR team is probably going to work on your brand and some others at the same time.

  2. True. Managing expectations is a vital consideration in any client-agency relationship. Funds is one thing but the other is also the type of products and services that your company offers, and the level of imagination and creativity which your team has in making any thing you do newsworthy.

  3. Client sometimes expect magical wonders from PR agencies. I just heard a friend commenting that the PR agency of her product principal failed to get any journalist to attend the launch opening nor cover the launch. Her interesting question being shouldn’t the PR agency be paid on results rather than time. Would definitely love to hear from you and Priscilla.

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