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What impact has virtual working had on client: agency relationships?

One of the fall outs of the pandemic is that agencies and clients are communicating differently. In the latest executive search company Whitney Murray’s Insight Pulse, developed with The Pulse Business, 36% of UK communications and investor relations (IR) leaders say the amount of time clients and agencies spend talking to each other has changed the most in the last 18 months.

While 27% believe that trust is on the increase and 20% assert that being more open with one another when things go wrong is also a change in the client/agency dynamic, the overall picture is not brimming with optimism.


Over the last 18 months, which ONE of these dynamics, if any, has changed the most in the Client/Agency relationship?

Building trust is harder

An agency CEO, whose business specialises in corporate reputation and brand management, says: "Being apart has made building trust harder. We just haven't had the face time and out of work moments in the way we would normally. That impacts when issues are brought up, later than usual. When the issue has embedded more."

One agency executive director struck a more positive note: “From an agency perspective, there has been more frequent engagement in both aligning on project planning, but also at an emotional level as trusted advisors in challenging Covid constrained circumstances.” However, their view is not representative as many comms and IR leaders expressed of a wider sense of frustration with how much pressure has been put on the professional relationship since the pandemic began.

A senior director working in-house offered, "Our agency has been squeezed financially and they are clearly overstretched and so we are not getting the same level of service and trust has been eroded.” Another director put forward: "The biggest change is in the closeness of the relationship, mainly due to remote working."

Future relationships require work

Rebecca Whitney, managing director of Whitney Murray says: “In order to fulfil any brief, there has to be open and honest dialogue. Otherwise it can break down and we're all back to square one. The pandemic has shown how communication is made easier via video calls. There is clearly a need to maintain regular contact with clients, but some of it has to be face to face to keep the relationship alive.”


Which ONE of these, if any, is top of your Christmas list this year?


The Whitney Murray Insight Pulse ran from November 26th 2021 to December 10th 2021. The sample size was c750 Communications leaders based in the UK.

Written by Imogen Osborne, founder of The Pulse Business

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