While May/June is usually when most of us focus on our spring cleaning at home, September/October seems to be the time when companies start focusing on “cleaning house” with regard to their PR programs -- with the hope of hiring a new firm to start working in January.
But dusting off the cobwebs from your existing agency contract does not necessarily mean you should toss that contract in the recycle bin. Rather, your fall cleaning should be a time to review the quality of the work performed, and seriously assess if it’s time to clean house or simply polish and add shine to what may be a dulled relationship.
There are many directions we can go on the topic of agency search but with the “search season” upon us we feel there's more value in looking within before embarking on a time-consuming agency search.
Indeed, one of the most important steps we include in our preliminary search process is reviewing the existing relationship between a client and its current or most recent agency. Too often the underlying reasons the relationship has soured can be attributed to lack of direction, inattentiveness on the part of the client contact, staff changes (on either side), a misstated scope of work, or unanticipated projects that took the agency off-course. Another unfortunate cause we’ve observed is that the budget was never where it needed to be from the get-go and the hours burned were never enough to achieve the required outcome. In other words, like a personal relationship, there’s usually blame on both sides!
Our approach has always been to advise our clients not to abandon ship too quickly. Why lose valuable momentum and an established knowledge base on a new search when it may be better to repair or reengineer an existing agency relationship? While it may require an uncomfortable meeting, you're in the driver's seat and should be able to grab your agency's attention and achieve an outcome best for both parties.
The best agency relationships mature into partnerships with mutually beneficial results. However, any marriage requires work from both sides and shouldn't be abandoned simply because of a few cobwebs or some dust.
- Robert Udowitz