Earlier today I was reading an interesting article about how social media is changing the agency/client relationship. It was actually an introduction to a podcast interview with a digital agency executive who had a lot to say about how social media is forcing agencies to – gasp! – become true business partners with their clients. This approach to an agency/client relationship seemed novel to both the author and his interview subject, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to read this sentence near the conclusion of the article:
“Because if you aren’t helping your client achieve business objectives, then you’re not really helping your client at all.”
Wow. Is there any other industry where you have to remind people that you’re supposed to be working in harmony with your client and helping them achieve their goals? Why else would someone hire you?
Actually, there are many reasons that companies hire marketing, PR and creative agencies, and often they are the wrong reasons. Here is my list of Three Reasons NOT to Hire a PR firm:
- Do not hire a PR firm because you want to see your name in print or see your face on TV. That might seem a bit counterintuitive since many PR efforts are focused on getting publicity in one form or another. But my point is that you should know why you want the publicity in the first place. Is it to drive sales? Is it to build your reputation? Do you want to raise awareness of an issue and motivate people to action? Those are all great reasons to hire a PR firm, but they are also intricately tied to your business objectives. It’s a big media world out there, and knowing why you want visibility will drive which corner of the world you want your agency to focus on.
- Do not hire a PR firm because they have offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. . . unless you have offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. There’s a tendency for companies to think that bigger agencies can bring more (and better) resources to the marketing table. But bigger doesn’t mean better. In fact, unless you’re a pretty big fish, bigger could mean worse. Don’t hire a big name just because you think it puts you in big name company.
- Do not hire a PR firm because you don’t have time to do X, Y or Z. Yes, an agency can operate like an extension of your in-house marketing or communications team. But if all you really want is someone who can update your website and social media channels, you may be better off hiring a junior-level staff person that you can manage directly. Another way to say it: don’t hire an agency just for tactics. The most compelling reason to hire an agency is to gain access to creative, strategic thinking that helps you accomplish your business objectives.
This list could go on, but the bottom line is that the best client/agency relationships are business partnerships. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – especially your PR firm.