Posts Tagged ‘PR best practices’

Public Relations Agency Best Practices, Part II: What Agencies (& Clients) MUST Deliver

December 19, 2012

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.

communicate cartoonRegular client meetings:

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.

Lucy Siegel

Public Relations Agency Best Practices, Part 1: Starting a New Client-Agency Relationship Right

December 3, 2012

We’ve all heard horror stories about how PR agencies have screwed up – disorganized service, too little attention from senior agency staff, too little experience on the account team, and the list goes on.

I’ve also heard plenty of horror stories about clients and how hard they are to work with. (I covered that in an earlier blog post.)

hearts-birdsIn this blog post and a follow-up post, I’ll provide my own template for agency best practices. My goal is to provide a template for agency/client best practices to help clients and potential clients know what they should expect as well as what will be expected of them, and to help other agencies organize their account services for optimal success. I welcome input from clients and other agencies on anything that I might have left out.

While the budget for public relations agency services dictates the amount of work and the level of activity a PR company can provide, there are certain basic components that are necessary for success no matter what the budget is. In my experience, it’s very difficult to achieve success for any client without providing those basic services and activities. When the budget is too small to afford these basics, it’s generally a good sign that both the client and the PR firm would be better off not starting a relationship.

I’ll start at the beginning – of the client-agency relationship, that is!  Here are what I consider to be best practices for kicking off a new relationship.

1. Schedule a client/agency meeting for an in-depth briefing of account team as soon as possible after the contract is signed. In most cases, the detailed PR plan will come out of this meeting, including the client’s PR positioning, audiences, key messages, strategies, tactics and budget. Necessary information to be shared (or decided) at the meeting:

  • Complete background on the assignment, the product or the company, including the competitive landscape, strengths and weaknesses of the product or company, history of product or company, distribution channels for product or company, research done by client on perceptions of key audiences, and a description of the client’s internal organization
  • Client’s preferred modes of communication
  • The approval process between client and account team
  • Upcoming deadlines for work
  • Clear and detailed client goals for PR
  • Identify the internal point person for the agency team. The agency needs regular input, updates and feedback from the client and must determine right away who in the company will provide this
  • Identify the client’s point person for accounting and invoicing

2.   The deliverables from that first meeting: the agency sends the client a detailed written plan and budget for the first year (or for a shorter period of time, depending on circumstances and contract).  Contents of the plan should include:

  • Confirmation of the PR goals, audiences, messaging and strategies
  • Confirmation of the agency’s deliverables to the client
  • Adjustments to any ideas previously proposed to account for new information received at the first meeting
  • Detailed information on each of the components and stages of the PR plan
  • Clear delineation of who is responsible for each component of the work – client or agency
  • Deadlines for each component that must be met by the client and the agency
  • Estimated budgets for agency fees and out-of pocket expenses

 In Part 2, I will cover the best practices for agency services after the relationship is under way. 

Lucy Siegel


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