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Why a good client-agency relationship takes work on both sides

The consultancy-client relationship in communications is often like the very best of love affairs – with highs and lows, intimate and intense (not that kind) moments and points of sheer joy and of pure angst. So how do we get it right? And, importantly, is ‘right’ a long-term marriage with mutual commitment, a meeting of minds and a determination to see through good and bad together? Or, is ‘right’ the recognition that sometimes you are the right fit at the right time, and is that good enough?

Long-term love

I’ve known my now husband for 16 years and I’m lucky that some of my best client relationships have spanned more than a decade ­– both shifting from early-days’ insecurity into great friendships and true understanding of what matters most on both sides. Which, I guess, puts me firmly in the camp of commitment. But, just as I’ve had two children and now have to spread my love around, I’m also a junkie for the shiny new relationships that come with starting a new role in a new firm and building from the ground up – alongside working with old friends.

So eight months into a new role, in a brave new world, how am I determining what my favourite kind of client liaison will be? Well I guess the starting point is finding clients who are looking for partners not providers; those invested in the relationship for a common good; those who know what they are looking for, or if they don’t, know that looking for it together will be a good thing; those looking to embrace change and those who want to beat and exceed expectations at every stage. Let’s also not shy away from inspiring and brilliant people – be that the CEO, CMO, head of comms or the comms team – people you want to spend time with, to support, to learn from and to build brilliant things together.

Give and take

Quite some list it turns out! So what do we need to give back in return? For every client, just like every dating profile, the list is different, but our starting point is passion for what we do, deep subject matter expertise, and a real commitment to think and do differently. Oh, and brilliant people, the start and the end of all of this – without them the fun-factor is too low – and like every great love affair, laughter must be there as a much-needed leveller in bad times and good.

Written by Elspeth Rothwell, UK CEO of communications agency Vested

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