With very few exceptions*, the following activities and services should be part of every PR agency-client relationship. Included on the list below are both deliverables from the agency to the client, and from the client to the agency. Without these deliverables, the level of communication between client and agency is not sufficient for the agency to do top-notch work.
Agency fees depend mostly on the time input by the agency PR team at the various billing levels of the team members. Therefore, the frequency and/or level of detail of some of the agency deliverables depend on the client’s budget for PR. However, no matter what level the budget is, each of these activities has an important place in keeping the wheels of the PR program turning smoothly.
Client-agency meetings should be held at least once a month, in some cases as often as weekly. Meetings usually are by conference call. The frequency depends on the level of PR activity by the agency team (which depends on the budget) and the urgency in accomplishing tasks by deadline dates. My firm tries to avoid long meetings. If we can accomplish what we need to in 15 minutes, then 15 minutes is what we should spend. Not everyone on the team needs to be at the meeting, and it’s especially important to be aware of staff hours consumed by these meetings if the budget is low. Billing rates of several people for even a half-hour meeting can eat up a lot of a modest PR budget. Content of meetings should include:
- Input and update: from the client about the company’s plans and activities; from the agency on the status of the work and feedback received from media or other external audiences
- Client feedback: on work done
- Planning for next steps
Required elements of every meeting:
- Agenda: sent to client and agreed on in advance of meeting
- Conference report: written within two days of the meeting, and to include:
- Summary of the main points and decisions made
- Agency and client action points, with deadlines for each
Status report on activities for client:
- A monthly report is most common, but the time frame could be longer (such as at the end of a two-month project) or shorter depending on needs and client budget.
- Should include a listing of steps taken and results obtained.
- Media relations results should be prepared as a chart, divided into type of media (business magazines, general newspapers, online, TV, radio, etc.) and showing media outlet, date, and circulation or audience size for each media placement.
- Give suggestions for adjustments to the PR plan or for next steps, and important areas for future PR work.
- Media clippings should be assembled to accompany the report. However, any important media coverage should be emailed or faxed to the client immediately upon receipt.
- Measurement of progress towards meeting goals set in the beginning of the PR program should be included.
Internal agency account team meetings:
- Scheduled by the account director
- Held on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, or as often as needed)
- Checklist of what needs to be done to carry out the plan
- Suggestions and support by team members to each other
- Coordination on who is doing what
- Comparison of hours spent to the monthly target hours each individual should spend on the account (this is based on the level of the fees)
Taking the temperature on client satisfaction:
- Feedback on client satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of the work should be solicited at regular intervals by a senior agency executive.
- Ideally, annual feedback should be requested by the agency from the client, as well.
I will be the first to point a finger back at myself and my own staff for sometimes skipping or abbreviating the activities on this list – we’re not perfect. However, it helps when both agency and client team members know what is expected of them. I hope this list will help you pave the way to smooth client-agency relationships.
* There are exceptions to every rule. For example, a spreadsheet of media results is not necessary when the focus of the work is social media, content preparation or crisis management.