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Retainer client/agency relationships are far more rewarding for both sides, claims Krista Le Beau from Neo PR

Project-based engagements are the flings of the PR agency world. They are ideal for a quick-fix news alert, for hesitant companies to dip their toes in or for those who have a limited budget. However, these short-term engagements don’t always produce noticeable results and any PR professional will tell you, it’s more beneficial to secure retainer engagements in order to build up credibility with the media and the industry and integrate PR into the wider business strategy.

Needing no introduction
Imagine a first date: you walk into a restaurant with no idea of how the next few hours will pan out. Cue introductions, small talk, discussions of similar interests. From the offset it might be pretty apparent it isn’t going to survive the long term, so you have to go on another date and introduce yourself all over again.

When you choose to settle down with one PR agency, you no longer have to introduce yourself to the media and the market, over and over again. As your relationship blossoms, so will the steady stream of coverage. You’ll find yourself needing no introduction to not only your market, but the media will also start to know your name.

Burned by a bad past?
If you’ve had a bad experience with a PR agency in the past, it’s understandable why you might be hesitant to get involved again, especially when there’s both financial and reputational repercussions at stake. Planning ahead can be daunting, but a committed relationship is also very rewarding; whether it’s a quarter-long plan for PR leading up to an event, or a getting a blog series planned drafted and posted to help the sales and digital team, plans are a good way of being able to justify your future spending to the Board.

Setting up for success
The foundation for any successful relationship is honesty, transparency and good communication. A retained PR engagement lets you build your relationship – both client/agency side and with the media – ensuring both parties know what is expected of them. Another important part of any relationship is that both sides are equal, and the same extends to a relationship with your PR agency. No one likes a game-player, and being in a relationship will make sure that you’re both on the same page, with no hidden secrets or agendas.

Impressing everyone
The best way to make the relationship work is to meet everyone from the directors to the board, to the sales team. Overwhelming? Probably, but getting every area of the business on board with a PR strategy is the best way to create a mutually beneficial relationship. If they can see results over time, they’ll be more likely to provide time and investment.

Whilst not necessarily appropriate for a single project, for a retained PR engagement, this really helps to align messaging across the organisation and make sure everyone is working together towards the collaborative end goal. Whether that might be sales, raising brand awareness, launching a new product or getting ahead of the competition, you can work it out together.

Keeping the spark alive
If you find that your long-term relationship has taken a turn down an unimaginative road, then it’s time to put some spark back in. But, long-term doesn’t have to mean boring. Creativity is essential for finding new ways of delivering an organisation’s message to the market, and for finding innovative ways to speak to the press about the different issues your company can help to solve.

Things change and people evolve. It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends (have you tried alphabet dating?) and tools so that you’re always able to keep things fresh. Try new things, get new people involved with the campaign and reach out to new publications to keep the campaign moving along in the right direction.

Finding the one
If you aren’t ready to commit or you fancy trying something new, a project is a great way to get news out and focus attention on a certain area for a short amount of time. But for a long-lasting relationship, credibility within the industry and a strong reputation that will last, a retained PR engagement is the way forward. If you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work out, it could just mean that you haven’t yet found the one.

  Written by Krista Le Beau, director at agency Neo PR

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