I find it incredibly rewarding to work with clients on achieving their PR objectives, which range from brand positioning and elevating a CEO’s presence on LinkedIn to securing media coverage, placing content or establishing strategic alliances. Regardless of the objective, I notice that every successful PR initiative has one thing in common: collaboration. I see it time and again in my client relationships. When there’s client-agency collaboration from day one, the initiative is more fruitful.
But collaboration takes effort as the agency – client relationship can be quite complex:
- There can be miscommunications about expectations and deliverables, which can result in distrust and frustration.
- The client can have competing internal agendas that prevent initiatives from propelling forward.
- And lack of communication on the client’s part can impede agencies from even doing their job at all, wasting their time and money
When both sides put in the work to foster collaboration, they can overcome these pitfalls and produce great results. Working hand-in-hand, builds deeper relationships and cultivates the feeling of being part of a team in which everyone is invested in the outcome. I’ve experienced first hand how such a collaborative environment sparks creativity and promotes successful outcomes. Such close communication helps the client better understand the agency’s PR process, as well as strategies and timelines. With a better appreciation for the process, the client is motivated to proactively supply valuable information and insight to bolster efforts, as well as take an active role in achieving the objectives, producing better results overall.
How to Promote Collaboration
Having worked with countless clients throughout the course of my career, here are the elements that I’ve found work well to foster collaboration:
1. Clear and Consistent Communication
Keeping everyone in the loop is key – and that starts on day one. It’s very important to set goals from the beginning so that the agency and the client are on the same page when it comes to objectives. Be clear about workflows and deliverables to head off misunderstandings or disappointments. I’m also a believer in setting communication expectations, i.e., frequency of meetings and reporting. I like to schedule a weekly meeting that lasts at least 30 minutes. This is a regular opportunity to share news, as well as anything upcoming on the horizon. Typically, I’ll provide a meeting agenda (to make the most of our time) and ask the client to weigh in on it. This keeps everything on track and moving forward. Communication is imperative to understanding the business, culture, target audience, and overall PR needs.
2. Trust and Transparency
My clients often say, “You get it!” and that’s because, over time, we’ve developed a strong personal rapport. Even though I may be an “outsider”, the client feels like I’m on their team. They’re comfortable sharing proprietary information – even when it has negative implications – which helps me in my PR advisory role. I build this trust by involving the client in every step of the process, from discovery and strategizing to sharing successes and acknowledging failures. My process is a transparent one because I believe that’s how you can identify weaknesses and pivot to drive success.
3. Team Introductions
Although I often work with the CEO or CMO, it’s useful to build relationships with other team members as well. Let’s face it, to get a true feel for a company’s culture and goals, you need more than one source. It’s important for multiple client team members to be involved in the PR process. I find that my interactions with company representatives from multiple levels unearth valuable information I can use for media pitches and original content.
4. Intentional Listening
For true collaboration to take place, both parties need to listen to each other with intention and 100% focus. As individuals, we’re automatically focused on how to frame what we’re going to say to get our point across. Because of that, when others are talking, rather than actively listening to what they’re saying, we’re in our own heads prepping for what we’re going to say next! Aware of this, I make a very conscious effort to really listen to my clients, acknowledging the points they make, resisting the urge to interrupt, and asking questions to elicit more information. If we’re on a Zoom call, I also ask the client if they mind me recording it so I can refer to it later on.
5. Idea Exchange
In order to get creative with PR strategies, agencies need to regularly elicit information from clients. I like to call these my weekly brainstorming sessions. During weekly meetings, I will ask my clients, “So, what’s on the horizon?” or “What happened in your world this week?” These open-ended questions open the door for conversations about a variety of things, including positioning of new initiatives. This consistent communication lets ideas freely flow and who knows where those ideas will take you.
What do you do to promote collaborative relationships?