While the most pressing concern for a PR agency when starting up with a new client is meeting their expectations, the flip side should also be just as important––ironing out what the agency expects from the client in order to set up an effective partnership.

Pemberton CEO and founder Mark Riggs opened O’Dwyer’s / Researchscape Nov. 28 webinar on helping clients understand an agency’s unique value by stressing this point. For Riggs, it’s important to get the client to open up about their likes and dislikes.

“We’re so eager to validate the client’s decision for hiring us that we jump right in, emails start flying, and we get them a couple of placements, but what we don’t do is sit down and really talk about alignment of expectations,” Riggs said.

Integral to a successful onboarding process of a new client is starting out on equal footing, Riggs explained.

“Do you want us to be order takers or counselors?” Riggs likes to ask new accounts. He’s fine with either role and just seeks clarity of mission.

Moderator Tony Cheevers kicked this topic over to Ken Jacobs who reflected on his years on the agency side before becoming an executive coach by admitting that “agencies get the clients they deserve.”

Jacobs recommends clearing the air during a pitch on how you approach business. “Talk about counseling, talk about partnership and how we will hold each other accountable,” Jacobs said.

Speak language of finance & accounting

Too often, agencies are timid about discussing payment terms and making it clear they’re there to make money, Riggs explained. “It doesn’t have to be unnerving, and it gets easier when you do it more and more,” Riggs said.

Jacobs encouraged agency leaders to conquer their fear of pressing the subject on fair payment for services offered. Explain to the client that “this is how we get the outcomes you really want and allows us to serve you,” Jacobs said.

Both Riggs and Jacobs point to adhering to a strict scope of work with every client to prevent over-servicing and losing money.

The client calls and is excited talking about all the different things they want to do, and your natural reaction is to say, “great idea!” Jacobs explained.

But Jacobs insists any ideas outside the established work plan must be met with the query, “So, do you have other resources to cover those ideas?”

Riggs highlighted phrases that can get agency owners into trouble with their scope of works, such as “ongoing media relations” and “planning as needed” that leave too much open to interpretation.

Riggs advises laying out your plans month by month, line item by line item, so you make the work you’re doing feel tangible.

“You have to view your clients as consumers. They understand the consumer paradigm, they’ve all walked into a restaurant, they’ve all seen a menu,” Riggs said.

View this full discussion and other webinars moderated by Researchscape’s Tony Cheevers on O’Dwyer’s YouTube page.

Feel free to reach out to Mark Riggs at [email protected] and Ken Jacobs at [email protected] for more insight on this topic.

Next up on Dec. 12 at 1:45 p.m. EST is “Content Planning for 2024” with Reba Thompson, VP of Client Partnerships at WriterGirl where we’ll review the results of a content planning survey. Contact John O'Dwyer at [email protected] if you'd like to suggest a topic, be a panelist or are interested in sponsoring a webinar.