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Why agencies must demand regular catch ups with senior clients

The latest PR and Comms Growth Tracker that pulses agency CEOs, MDs and board directors for their views found that 40%, both in the UK and internationally, say regular catch-ups as part of the account management process is the best way to make a senior client relationship work.

Build trust

Despite the fact that this can be quite a challenge as senior clients are under huge pressure for their time, 56% of in-house leads (who answered the same Pulse) say this is the only way to make the relationship work effectively. This from one senior comms leader sums it up well: “When regular one-to-one meetings take place between the client and an insightful, experienced senior person at the agency, the bond of trust becomes very strong, in my opinion… this would be the fastest and most consistent way to build trust. It’s quite simple, but it doesn’t always happen!”

The need to make time for these catch-ups is backed by this agency CEO: “On what is hopefully a post-zoom era, it’s never been more important to get close to clients and form genuine relationships.”

Which one of these, if any, is the most effective way to build relationships with senior clients?

Workshops work too

It’s not just down to that all important one-on-one time. Running workings are an excellent door opener 13% claim and 7% also point to the power of sharing their network along with providing strategic insight as lures for building confidence and trust.

Another strategic communications adviser said: “Agencies add value for money in providing insights and support outside of the day-to-day running of the company. You don't need another voice within the organisation, getting involved in the nitty gritty. Insights on trends and movements within the media and wider stakeholders - the type of thing that suffers when you're up to your eyes - provides the most value.”

Be bespoke

One MD pointed to the need to provide a ‘bespoke’ approach to every client you work with - “Long-lasting and deep relationships with clients are built not just on understanding their industry, and their business challenges, but also their internal situations. If they're in an internal situation where they are the only comms person, it's important to be a sounding board, to make them an extension of your team - as well as to help them improve professionally. If they're in a larger team, it might also be about helping them manage situations, focus their career and grow their own skillset. It should be bespoke to each client - but in short, personally, I think it's about more than just the day to day; it's about being a support.”

A seasoned consultant cut to the chase: “The best way to build relationships with senior client figures is to do a great job and prove the business impact of the work you are doing."

No easy solution

The last word sits with this CEO: “There is no magic bullet. Understand what matters to senior execs and help them achieve their goals. At this level it’s wrong to imagine there’s one best way, and if you do you will miss what’s most important: getting inside the head of the people with whom you want to build a relationship.”

So schedule those quarterly reviews with everyone who has a role to play. It may be the obvious choice - but face-to-face time works.

Methodology

The PR and Comms Agency Growth Tracker spoke to around 300 PR and comms agency CEOs based in the UK and internationally, and around 400 in-house senior comms leaders, February 2023

Written by Imogen Osborne, founder of The Pulse Business

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