Nothing is more distressing as an agency CEO than when other agencies’ service standards are so low that they reflect badly on the rest of the PR/Communication firms in their market. All agencies suffer when clients aren’t served well.  

In the last week, I’ve had four conversations with companies looking to switch PR firms if choose one at all because they’re so disillusioned. Why? Their reasons all boil down to service around media relations work. For the record, agencies and consultants and freelancers are in the SERVICE business, and if we’re not making our clients’ lives easier whilst helping them achieve their goals, we are not serving them well.   

So, while we may not work with any of these four companies, we hope that we’ve established a service bar for each of those companies, and we want to share with anyone and everyone what I shared.

Let’s take the media relations activity as the example. 

4 Things to Expect From Your Agency for Interviews

  1. Your agency should never blame you for “not landing the interview” if they didn’t prepare you or weren’t there to prompt you if you forgot to say something or didn’t follow up…. if they didn’t serve you well for the interview. To wit:
  2. Your agency should always prepare you for an interview – even with someone you know. For example: Who are you talking with? What story are they working on that you will hopefully contribute to? What does this person know about the industry? The company? You? The news or product or POV you have to share? What have they written in the past on this topic? Why do they want you to take the interview? Here are the top three points we want you to make in the interview. Etc.  You should never here “please call Sally at 650-123-4567 and talk to her.” Ever. Ever. Ever. That’s a no service agency action.
  3. Your agency should have a seasoned account person staff your interviews if at all possible (it’s not always possible). Their job? To tee up the interview (introduce the reporter and you the client, confirm how long you have for the interview) and then listen, listen, and listen some more. If you go off on a tangent as we are all wont to do, their job? To interject professionally and bring you back on target with a specific prompt, e.g. “Joe, can you share with Sally your experience with the ACME situation as an illustration?” At the end of the time, the job is to wrap up the call “Excuse me, Sally, Joe has 5 more minutes, and then I can follow up with any other questions you have and get you the information on the ACME project.” 
  4. After the interview, your agency should a) candidly tell you how you did so you can improve your interview style,  b) ask you if you’d like the agency to share anything else with the reporter, and c) follow up with the reporter thanking them for their time, provide any other information that came up in the interview, and reiterate the key points. You should never hear, “Let me know how the followup goes – don’t forget to ask them when the story will run.” Ever. Ever. Ever.

We Exist To Serve

Agencies exist to serve their clients. At the same time, agencies and consultants are not order-takers or concierge services, unless that’s spelled out in the contract and you’re paying for that privilege (I recommend a PA for that). It’s possible to be a terrible client (we could tell you some stories) but that’s not an excuse for terrible service.

Hire agencies who will serve you well — will give you counsel, will push back professionally when they disagree or see a better way forward for you,  will help you prioritize the work at hand,  and will expedite your time for biggest impact. If we’re not making you more effective, we’re not serving you well.

– Lee