What do clients want from their PR agencies?

As with all clients and suppliers, PRmoment.com believes that if PR agencies want to keep their clients for the long term they must communicate with them regularly and relevantly and offer good value. Jennifer Jewett, director of global corporate communications at security software specialist Sophos, says that she appreciates agencies that don’t just keep her informed, but go that bit further: “I say overwhelm me with information! I want to know that my agency has its finger on the pulse of my industry. I share a ton of information internally with sales and marketing teams and an extra set of eyes watching the news is greatly appreciated.” 

Talking about how agencies can disappoint her, Jewett says they sometimes fail to appreciate that internally, the goal of PR and marketing is to support sales – through media relations/brand awareness and other relevant campaigns. So while external communications is vital, so is internal communications to make sure teams understand what is happening within the industry.

Last, Jewett says that she expects to see results: “Results are important internally to reinforce the value that PR brings to a company. So agencies, don't ever think your reports aren't appreciated – they are!”

Personalities play a big part of PR, and although it is obviously important to get on with clients, this is irrelevant if agencies fail to deliver. Being charming is not enough, agency execs need to show they understand their clients’ business as well as being able to influence key journalists in the sector.

Andy Turner, founder of PR agency Six Sigma discusses what he valued in agencies while working client side: “As a client, I could live with people I didn't like if they helped me meet the goals of the organisation that paid my salary, with skills, expertise and resources I did not have (or could not readily access) inside the organisation. What services are most important depends on the specific needs of the client organisation.”

Case study

Andy Smith, head of media relations at bank Santander, lists what he loves and hates about PR agencies:

What I look for:

1. Talented people – rather than just good agency creds. I am a firm believer that all agencies have good people – and what you want are the good people.

People who run campaigns that win awards – independent verification of work is a good indicator of the ability to think and present ideas strategically.

2. The right skills for the brief – so as a financial service brand with value-for-money products that puts a lot attention on the money/business media – I look for people that understand finance and the media we deal with.

What annoys me:

1. Agencies that do media audits – we do lots and lots of press briefings, talk to the personal finance and business media every day, and subscribe to Mori surveys, etc. This means we have a very clear idea about what the media thinks of Santander.

2. Ideas that are just there to demonstrate creativity without any concept of realism and delivery.


We asked, what’s the best thing about PR agencies?

Lucy Siegel, president of New York PR firm Bridge Global Strategies:

“Being able to benefit from the agency's broader experience working with a lot of different companies in different industries. This experience is what accounts for out-of-the-box creativity and deep knowledge that you can't always have internally on every topic. The worst thing is when you're billed more than you expected and nobody ever warned you before the bill came.”

Lourdes Pérez Ramírez, senior communications associate at a not-for-profit organisation:

“Clients want their PR agency and PR people to understand their business and become part of their marketing mix effort. The best thing about working with an agency is the rich experience, creativity and knowledge it brings to the table.” 

Cathie Ericson, freelance PR consultant:

“Besides results of course, I have always had clients tell me that they appreciate how I always keep them in the loop. My goal is to never have to have them ask me where we are on a certain project; they know because I have sent them an update. When we are deep in a media relations campaign, I send daily reports.”

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