How to Hire and Fire a PR Client

This is a guest post by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR.

This is a guest post by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR.

September represents new beginnings in the world of PR and marketing around the globe, an exciting time for repositioning brands, launching new ventures and kicking off seasonal event series.

Many an annual retainer campaign is initiated in the month of September, for obvious, quarterly fiscal planning reasons. Leading up to and in tandem with this exciting timeframe, is the need to assess how and when to hire or fire an agency client.

This may be conducted through a system of reverse engineering and analysis based on desired outcomes for both the agency and the client and can be broken down into the following considerations:

  • Monthly Planning
  • Daily Communication
  • Weekly Parameters for Success
  • Tools to Achieve Goals
  • Defining Results

The smartest firms will budget accordingly— based upon billable hours and the inevitable over-servicing that goes into making most campaigns successful from a Marketing, PR, and new business development standpoint.

According to Growth Force it is more cost effective to hire an agency, client-side. Likewise, it is most cost effective for an agency to fire a client rather than hire a new team member to carry the added workload.

The relationship is 100 percent correlated. The benefits can be measured on a 1:1 ratio. In fact, the impact a good PR partner will make can drive the business client-side for years, through high profile press coverage and marketing and partnership introductions, not to mention leads pre-identified toward new business development that result in contracts.

Conversely, when communication begins to deteriorate between client and agency, usually around the 6-month mark, it is time to evaluate what each team wishes to accomplish beyond that juncture— assuming there is an annual contract in place. It is important to frankly open the dialogue in meetings, rather than try to manage it over email communication. Given the intense pace of most workplaces, nuance, meaning, and tonality are often lost, unless the agency sits down with C-level executives or Principals client-side.

According to experts at both Entrepreneur and PR Daily, the 7 reasons PR professionals should fire a client include:

  • Micromanagement by a client that results in reductive agency outcomes
  • The PR team develops a visceral reaction to a mention of the client’s name
  • Clients never ask your professional opinion, even though that’s why they hired an agency
  • The agency-client relationship is not based in a mutual respect
  • Playing the blame game when it relates to budget when the issue usually stems from the client over spending, or not having a viable PR budget to begin with
  • The client is unresponsive for weeks, even up to a month, and then claims— via email rather than in person or by telephone— that the agency is ‘”checked out”’ of their responsibilities or deliverables
  • Agency begins to hesitate when promoting the client’s service, product, or point of view with national media— due to lack of belief in client’s integrity or actual ability to deliver on results

As many agencies wisely plan their annual calendars long in advance, prospective clients are often surprised to learn, for example, that the following year’s roster is already confirmed four months before the new year. The smartest PR firms are highly selective in the manner they interview, pre-qualify and hire, or sign new client contracts. Clients are vetted in advance by an agency in the same way the agency must prove its merits, beyond reputation, for offering the highest level of service, value-add network of professional contacts, and global media coverage to the perspective clients.

It also comes as news to clients that they will need to dedicate a serious number of hours conducting positioning audits to help drive new business and storytelling strategies, hiring in-house talent, as well as undergoing media training and lengthy editorial interviews, photo shoots, and video work on camera.