What do clients want from their PR agencies?
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
What do clients want from their PR agencies and how are their demands changing? To find out we asked agency chiefs what services they are expected to deliver these days.
1. A true partner, not just a service provider
Eilidh Barnett, PR account director at PR agency CubanEight: “Clients no longer want an agency that will deliver a siloed PR programme. They want a partnership that will enable and help them to see beyond coverage secured and realise the value of PR.
“Clients want an agency that will help them bring breadth and depth to the campaign by supporting across other channels, like paid-for, social, events as well as maximising and amplifying earned medias.“
2. A fully integrated offering
Maureen Conlon, head of communications clients services at PR agency Hotwire Global: “We’re finding that clients are increasingly looking for more than just a PR agency - they’re wanting a fully integrated offering and a trusted partner who can strategically advise and deliver on digital, data and marketing services.”
3. Creativity is number one
Maureen Conlon: “The number one service clients are looking for is creativity whether this is around ‘creative’ communications campaigns, or creative designs and assets. PR is ultimately an art, with a bit of science mixed in. Clients sometimes ask for the impossible - usually in terms of timescales and trying to shorten the creative and strategic process. It’s important to help educate clients to show them the value of this and when they see the results, they understand!
“As those in the industry know, the best creative campaign is backed by real data and insight that truly understands the target audience and gets to the hidden truth. Often, this can’t be turned around in 24 hours as clients would like.”
4. Brilliant ideas delivered efficiently
Jason Madeley. managing director of PR agency Hatch: “Clients want to see genuine creativity, to be ‘wowed’, so originality and innovation remain paramount. They want better dialogue, honesty and transparency, and to be given the right advice and recommendations, at precisely the right time.
“Now more than ever, clients are looking for more agile ways of working, so speed and efficiency are crucial. The ability to be reactive and flexible is another must to ensure we maximise every opportunity in real time.”
5. An agency with magic powers!
Sarah Lloyd, founder of agency IndigoSoulPR “My clients come to me because they require transformation. Which ultimately translates in an up-level in their business journey, a widening of their circle and potential customer base. I become a trusted advisor and a sounding board, as well as connecting their stories to the right media. It is not just about earned media coverage any more, I find it’s more about being relevant, truthful and feeling confident in sharing their message with their dream clients. Is that impossible to manage - not if we manage boundaries and expectations from the outset! “
6. Their lives to be made easier
Jamie Irwin, founder of agency Straight up Search: “Make sure that all of your PR related tasks are designed to make the client’s life easier. Be proactive, think ahead and deliver on what you say you will.
“You should always be thinking one step ahead for your client. If you told them you would get 10 placements in the next month, make sure you do that and more. Exceed their expectations at every opportunity.”
7. Maximum return on investment
Chloe Mitchell, business director at PR firm M&C Saatchi Talk: “It is important to offer maximum return on investment by appearing in more places. The most impactful PR campaigns are ideas that live across all channels and platforms. Our approach is now conversation first, not channel first.”
8. Meeting in person
Chloe Mitchell: “Post-pandemic, we also shouldn’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face client meetings. Virtual meetings are easy and sometimes work well, however, real-life interactions build more meaningful and long-lasting relationships.”
9. To be at the centre of trending conversations
Will Hobson, PR and London director at digital agency Rise at Seven: “Reactive PR is something we’ve done for a number of years and during the pandemic that only increased. Clients are looking for the future of the press office, which is why we have now created Rise Live to be more dedicated to putting brands at the centre of trending conversations across industries such as finance, fashion, travel, and more.
“This shift in what service digital PR provides couldn’t be more relevant in 2022. The importance of being first really elevates your marketing efforts - and has the potential to be even more effective than large marketing campaigns, just by using speed as a competitive advantage. While we still look to drive traffic (and subsequent sales) direct to our clients' pages, it’s all about making sure we can tie this to relevant stories, therefore making clients feel like they are trending 24/7”.
10. To embrace new formats
Tim Gibbon, founder of communications consultancy Elemental: “Clients are looking to further embrace digital communications; content, influencer marketing, SEO, social and so on. The formats evolve, however, video remains one of the most impactful and the aforementioned is important to be competent with to be successful. There are many clients who are looking for the next big thing when the reality of it is they need to focus on getting the basics right first.”
11. Good, old-fashioned media relations
Lisa Gibson, senior PR Lead at marketing and PR agency Yours Sincerely: “The number one service we’re providing at the moment is probably content that works for the media and across digital platforms. But for all that, there’s still an important place for good, old-fashioned media relations. As a PR person, the day you stop getting a buzz from a great piece of editorial coverage is probably the day to think about a career change…”
Expectations of PR agencies are evolving, but in essence, clients still want the same thing: to have a multitude of demands met, and as cheaply and as quickly as possible!
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