While it may be true that an agencies brand is discussed far less than the clients it handles, Allie Holmes, Director at Edelman Dubai, offers her expert opinion on why it is vital for agencies to be aware of their brand reputation and be selective when it comes to representing clients…
Publicity may be what we sell, but that publicity is steeped in relationships, and relationships are built on trust – trust with your employees, trust with clients and trust with the press
Last year, our agency was approached by a public figure about to go through a public criminal trial. Would we manage press and public opinion for the client, the representative asked? No agency is ever in a place to turn down a sure thing, but in this case, there was no debate; the answer had to be no. Not because there wasn’t money to be made, but whether or not the client won or lost in the court system – as an agency, we only stood to lose in the court of public opinion.
Publicity may be what we sell, but that publicity is steeped in relationships, and relationships are built on trust – trust with your employees, trust with clients and trust with the press.
With this in mind, why is it so important that we separate ourselves from clients who are behaving in a way that doesn’t align with our values, or refuse to take them on as clients in the first place?
Because we owe it to our people
As an individual, working for an agency, you should not have to compromise your morals to do your job.
As ‘communicators for hire’, you get the opportunity to work with the very best industries and corporations on offer, the initiatives they want to talk about, the causes they want to support.
Being agency-side allows us to pick and choose those behaviors and mindsets and even industries we will promote and those we won’t. For example, Edelman doesn’t work for the tobacco industry. I find this freedom to decide admirable. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed agency-side.
Because we owe it to our clients
If as a client, you’re being represented by an agency that has a reputation for working with clients of questionable morality, you could feel the blowback of guilt by association when things go sour. For many of our clients, ours are the “faces” of the corporation in the pressroom, and we have to protect that.
Finally, because we owe it to our industry
It’s no secret that the field of PR has a significant PR problem. PR flacks are often seen right up there with defense attorneys and politicians. Bad decisions made by one, do impact the whole. We, of all people, should know that best.
Taking on clients who act unethically impacts the trust others place in our agencies – internally with our teams, externally with our media contacts and ultimately with our current and potential clients. Taking on clients (or retaining clients) that impact others’ ability to trust may provide short-term gains, but in the long-term, there are worse things to lose than revenue – when our organisational trust is on the line. When it comes to reputation, we should remember that not all business is good business.