The impact of client behaviour on PR staff wellbeing

What motivates your average account manager today and what makes them happy? To find out The Pulse Business and PRmoment hosted a brainstorm and discovered, in particular, the impact client behaviour has on PROs’ mental health and wellbeing.



Key insights

  • Account managers are sensitive to change
  • AMs are concerned about the future of the PR and comms industry – especially by the impact of paid media and the role of the online influencer
  • Recognition and promotion is central to AM happiness but also their senior manager investing time in them and being in tune with their career path
  • Client behaviour weighs down on their overall happiness
  • Many feel that clients don’t really understand the craft of what PR and comms does

To further explore how clients are treating agency staff and what senior management is doing to protect their people, more research was carried out amongst PR agency managing directors. They were asked: "Do you believe your clients treat your staff well and with respect?" Just over half (58%) replied that they were, but only "most of the time".

Taking advantage

Discussing some of the occasions when clients fail to treat PROs well, one MD says: 

“In my experience, most clients treat all members of the team well and there is mutual respect. However, there have been occasions where some clients seek to take advantage of their client status requesting work to be completed outside of the brief/remit or can sometimes be impolite and too demanding of more junior team members (especially when the client is under pressure).”

However, this MD goes on to give solutions to this problem: 

“This can easily be resolved by a) ensuring agency team members can always raise questions or concerns with their agency lead; b) ensuring there are regular team meetings so agency leads are aware of workloads and can help manage priorities in the team; and c) ensuring the agency leads have relationships right across the client team so they can spot potential challenges early. Open communication amongst the agency and client teams is always vital and must be encouraged.”

Always on

Another MD blames today’s 24-7 culture for clients making unfair demands: 

“Clients quite rightly expect a lot for their investment, however, there is a one-way trend to more and more being expected faster and faster. I see it as a consequence of today’s ‘always on’ society.”

This MD’s solution is to set clear boundaries: 

“To minimise the potential stress of this we seek to establish super organised working relationships with clients that lock down work scope, timings, expectations of deliveries and thus team workloads. Stress or pressure can arise in clients’ businesses for various reasons and that is usually what challenges our planned approach – and can result in client pressure on staff. A classic is to be late in briefing or giving sign off but not changing a delivery date. We’re a service industry so we’re predisposed to always want to deliver, but sometimes senior people must push back to protect junior staff if someone is being unreasonable.”

The future

Mental health and wellbeing is a major concern in the PR industry, so it is vital that senior managers in PR do all they can to make sure clients are not over-stressing their staff. From educating clients to supporting account managers in every way they can.

Methodology

The Pulse Business, in partnership with PRmoment, ran a facilitated brainstorm hosted by the PRCA in July 2019. Attended by a group of account managers/senior account managers working for a range of PR and comms agencies, the discussion focused on what makes this management layer thrive in their role and what aspects of their jobs they find frustrating. A key insight was an ongoing concern with client behaviour. The Pulse Business then ran a single question Pulse to c180 senior PR and comms agency leaders asking ‘Do you believe your clients treat your staff well and with respect’ in September 2019 to understand if this was being picked up by senior management.