After 25 years in the PR game, there are PR principles I learnt in my first 12 months, scratch that, the first month of stepping into a PR agency that I still rely on as a senior freelancer working as part of remote teams today.
For those just getting stuck into the industry today, it’s doubtless boring to listen to old stalwarts go on about how we used to use faxes, send press releases by post even. But no matter how much technology has changed the way we do things, brought in new media, sectors and disciplines, changed the shape of the traditional PR agency, the one piece of advice that I have returned to over and over again is as pertinent to today as it’s always been: get your client management skills down. Sort that shizzle out and the rest will follow.
From day one this was drummed into me by the founders and my bosses at then new kid on the block, Lexis. And they were right to place the emphasis they did on the principles of running an account brilliantly. As new to the industry, if we were to be of value to a fast-growing agency, then we needed to understand all the component parts of running an account from pitch to delivery and quickly.
It’s not about just policies, processes and templates, it’s the way you prove your work, its worth, eek out opportunity and foster solid, long-lasting client relationships based on trust and an ability to deliver.
No client ever bought an agency on the basis that it produces a good action tracker or has regular project calls. However, without the scaffolding of a solid account management framework, it’s chaos, and chaos breeds insecurity in a client. As an active member of The Difference Collective, I know that it takes a leap of faith for clients to opt for a different kind of agency – to work with a collective of freelancers that isn’t sitting next to each other in one building, town or even country. You have to validate their decision quickly by proving that it works and delivers results. It can’t be more laborious to work with a virtual agency than a traditional one and that’s where slick, time-saving, systems that leave no-one wondering, are key.
It’s the pedestrian bit for sure, but if you’re on top of it, then systems and processes are 5% of the agency/client relationship. If you’re all over the place, then they’re 95% of the relationship*. Your achievements will be overshadowed by an inability to run an account. If you nail it then client management takes care of itself – you’ll get the confidence of your team and soon be out managing your client. Everyone knows what they’re doing and what’s expected of them. It’s then that you’re free to add value and that’s where the magic happens, and we’re reminded of why we got into this game in the first place.
*I made the stats up but you get the drift
About the Authors
Vicki Harper is a senior communications consultant: a social media strategist with 20 years PR agency experience behind her specialising in female-first brands across multiple sectors, public and private. She would describe herself as a PR/social media hybrid which means the social media campaigns she devises are rooted in strategy and amplify the wider marcomms campaign.
Setting and devising social media strategies, deploying engaging campaigns and negotiating partnership deals, Vicki is well-networked among the vibrant online communities aggregating around health and fitness, in particular running. She works with key influencers, bloggers and journalists to grow and foster Go Faster Food fans and followers creating content and connections to fully embed the brand among its core audience.