What do you want from your PR agency?
It is a question that we asked in-house communications professionals last year – focusing specifically on financial PR and corporate PR agencies.
More than 100 responded to our inaugural survey, which was conducted by Message House, providing us with a good insight as to their requirements.
In some respects, the list is not surprising. Clients want proactivity, creativity, strategic insights and, particularly when it comes to financial PR agencies, in-depth knowledge of the sector, for example, and most are relatively satisfied with their current agencies.
But while two thirds (64 per cent) are ‘very likely’ to recommend their current agency, one in eight is unhappy.
Personally, I was surprised that respondents were relatively sanguine about agency fees – it always seems like one of the key issues that in-house professionals moan about to me when we meet – but, equally, a handful of agencies were viewed poorly when asked about value for money. It may not be a flashing red light but it is certainly an amber alert that should be considered by them.
Similarly, they are less concerned about global networks or partnership agreements with other overseas agencies. It was a finding that made sense: in-house people usually talk about hiring the best in class in each market, rather than an international agency to cover all markets. Indeed, when the latter scenario is the case, in-house practitioners usually moan about an agency being foisted upon them by an overseas head office.
But an agency can tick all the boxes on a client’s wish list and yet still not come up to scratch. Why? It’s down to that elusive quality: chemistry. When the relationship between a client and an agency works really well, according to our survey, it is because the agency personnel have blended in and it feels like one team working together.
Indeed, Headland, which was voted by respondents as CorpComms Magazine’s Corporate Agency of the Year 2018, was praised for its ability to respect the in-house arrangements and how it sought to complement them. One hundred percent of its existing clients were ‘very likely to recommend’ Headland. No other agency came close. But more surprisingly perhaps, 66 per cent of those respondents who were familiar Headland were ‘very likely’ to recommend it – even though they did not currently work with the agency. If an agency’s clients are happy, it seems, they will spread the word!