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Why a retained client and agency relationship is better for PR business

25th February 2013

There has been a trend over the past five years towards a project-by-project based client and PR agency relationship. The presumed wisdom has been that this allows clients to reduce fees, keep agencies on their toes and appoint best of class for each project. In a way this seems logical, but I think there is a fundamental flaw in this theory and I expect this trend to reverse itself over the medium term. My reasoning for this goes to back to the entire purpose of why a brand would appoint a PR agency; the reason is to give themselves access to senior counsel, specialist knowledge and increase the size of the team at busy times. By following a project-based client and agency relationship, the client only achieves one of these objectives. They are able to increase the size of their team, but by working on a short term project basis the agency cannot be as embedded into the client's communications strategy and culture, nor can they be as familiar with the brands products. This means the client suffers because the agency does not have the knowledge to maximise their performance. When I talk to communications directors about this issue, the general consensus is that a retained client and agency relationship is better. For one thing, it allows easier budgeting and, very often because of agencies over-servicing the client, ends up getting more time for their money. But more importantly than that, the best client and agency relationships develop over time. The reason for hiring an agency is to give organisations access to advice and expertise. To cut a business off from that strategic advice does not seem logical.

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