Please don’t ditch me!

In the world of PR, the client/agency relationship can sometimes be a rocky road. PR Guru Sophie Toh attempts to decipher the encrypted relationship, while outlining her dream client wish list… 

Is it them or us? Has the relationship stalled? Like an insecure lover, we live in constant fear of being dumped

Running a PR agency is a tricky business. Not only do you have to worry about dazzling prospective clients with your proposals, networking day and night and being a whizz at team and time management, but you also have to keep your clients happy.

The thought of keeping up with the spoken and unspoken expectations of a healthy stable of clients, all with vastly different characters, backgrounds, specialisms and from such a rich range of nationalities is enough to make even the toughest of us lose a wink of sleep. We agencies worry constantly about the quality of our client relationships, constantly picking them over and needing to dissect and analyse them. Is it them or us? Has the relationship stalled? Like an insecure lover, we live in constant fear of being dumped.

So imagine our consternation when we read the latest body of research from the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) that reveals a fascinating gulf between agencies and clients in what they feel matters most in their relationships. Perhaps the biggest agency misconception is that personal chemistry matters. Over half (51 per cent) of agency respondents thought it was the key ingredient, whilst just less than one quarter (19 per cent) of clients agreed. Meanwhile, 17 per cent of agencies thought ‘regularity of communication’ mattered, but only six per cent of clients did. It seems that agencies think they are having a relationship, while clients think they are having a transaction.

Even more puzzling is the business of effectiveness. Almost half of those from agencies thought ‘demonstrating ROI’ was key, but in contrast only 34 per cent of clients agreed. On the other hand, only 27 per cent of agencies thought value for money was key, compared with 38 per cent of clients.

So where does that leave us?  Simply put, it seems that agencies are trying to prove the payback on each and every project, examining the micro over the macro and living in danger of over thinking ourselves out of the picture. The reassuring take away from this study is that overstretched clients simply do not have the time for such detail – they just want to know their PR budget has been well spent. So we should calm down and avoid obsessing over the detail and the volume of correspondence we exchange each and every day. Time to take a breath.

Crossing over the fence, we did an informal straw poll at TOH Towers about what qualities we love in our clients.  Here’s our dream client list:


  • Trusts you and lets you get on with your job
  • Understands PR, but equally understands we are the experts
  • Is clear about what they want, so we can over deliver
  • Tells us when we’re wrong and voices their concerns
  • Might challenge our ideas, but will allow us to debate them openly
  • Looks forward to our meetings
  • Doesn’t make us feel inferior – we’re their partner


For more news and insights, follow Sophie on Twitter @teamtoh 

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