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Who are the best clients in PR?

We asked agency chiefs who their favourite clients are. They may not have named any names, but clients who stand out are the ones they have a personal relationship with, those who understand PR and who are also honest and straight-talking. Mind you, it also helps if they pay on time and create fantastic products and services!

 My favourite clients

Chris Woods, head of digital and strategy at agency Dakota Digital: “We all love exciting clients; be it cutting-edge products or widely recognisable household names that look impressive on a case-studies slide. And although success in a marketing career comes down to your ability to find challenge and enthusiasm in even the seemingly dullest of brands and businesses, you can’t fake real intrinsic passion.

“It’s always the clients from brands you have a personal affiliation with that stand out, that really get creative juices flowing and inspire your best work. You can’t fake genuine passion like this and it’s usually transparent to the client as well. In fact, my advice to many businesses when splitting hairs between which suppliers and agencies to partner with, go with the option that displays the greatest passion for what you do. There is a plethora of agencies out their fighting for business every day, so it makes sense to find a potential partner that cares as much about your business as you do.

“That said, excitement, bragging rights and intrinsic satisfaction set aside, some of my favourite clients across my many years in media are those you can build a relationship with on a human level, a genuine, personable understanding. Not to mention pay their invoices before the next one is due!”

Melanie Johnson, account director at agency Ranieri Communications: “We all want a client that has the headline-grabbing product of the year, or famous brand that offers press tours to exotic places, but in reality the dream client, for me, is one that has an understanding of PR and is always at the end of the phone. That sounds boring, but having a client that knows the difference between marketing, advertising and PR and is willing to have regular input is much easier to work with. Plus, it builds a successful relationship and trust.

“The most difficult clients are the ones that get all excited during the kick-off meeting and then disappear, but still expect results. No one wants this type of client, far too stressful for all.”

Danielle Hibbert, experiential manager, at agency Clearbox Communications: “For me, the ideal client-agency relationship has a number of key factors including trust, creative freedom and honesty. However, what really stands out for me in terms of client love, is becoming an integral part of the team and working alongside those in-house to help the business grow. 

“I lead the events team and when a client treats us as peers and not just suppliers, it makes a world of difference and adds a personal touch. I get such a buzz when I see results for this kind of client and a real sense of pride. 

“In terms of a favourite type of client, beauty brands make my heart flutter and I’ve been lucky enough to work for brands such as Sisley, Crème de la Mer and Vita Liberata. If I wasn’t in PR then I would definitely be a beauty writer!”

Warren Heath, senior consultant at agency Calacus Public Relations: “There is always going to be a bit of give and take and compromise when it comes to a client-agency relationship, that is the nature of the beast. However, there are certain attributes that a client may possess, that makes working with them a much more straightforward and constructive process. From a personal viewpoint, a dream client for me will ideally:

  • understand the media landscape and what makes a good story;
  • have personal experience working both in house and agency side;
  • be a straight talker and be prepared to have an honest and frank discussion;
  • have a collaborative approach and be aware that we’re both working towards common goals;
  • give a fast turnaround on approval process and have an open dialogue.”

Jill Hawkins, director at agency Aniseed PR: “My favourite client is the one who puts their money where their mouth is – one who has very definite opinions and who isn't afraid to share them. I've been known to giggle when writing an opinion piece for one of my clients – as I write it I can feel the mischief flowing and can anticipate the reactions of the editor and the readers. Editors love opinion columns that actually convey an opinion, that spark feedback and debate from the audience. So these type of clients are my favourites, not only because I have fun writing for them, but because they are easy to build a reputation for and thus create loads of coverage too.”

Maxine Ambrose, joint managing partner at agency Ambrose Communications: “When I set up Ambrose Comms back in 1995, I had a very simple three-point strategy for client acquisition: clients must do something genuinely interesting; they must be nice people to work with; and they must pay on time. This may sound over-simplistic, but I’d previously worked in PR agencies where projects and programmes could become rapidly demotivated by staff having to pitch stuff they didn’t believe in, or work with rude or unreasonable clients, made worse still if they said they wanted everything at the drop of a hat, yet hadn’t paid for months!  Take it from me, it’s much easier to be successful if the team and client get on well and understand each other, have something challenging, enjoyable and rewarding to get their teeth into. Plus paying bills on time keeps everyone happy, not least the bank manager!”

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