I recently had to stop working with one of my biggest clients as I realised that despite the income it wasn't worth losing my reputation … or my sanity. After all, that's not why I set up Joshua PR. Looking back at the relationship I think we both could have got more out of it if the client had a better understanding of how to work with a PR agency. So here are my thoughts on the subject.
Do understand the basics of PR
To get the best from your agency and the work they do you need to understand the basics of PR - what makes a story, how journalists work, what the differences are between traditional and digital PR etc etc. The biggest issue most clients face is understanding that just because it is important to you doesn't mean it is important to a journalist - no matter how hard your agency works to pitch the story.
Don't refuse to accept advice
You've hired an agency presumably because you think they are good at PR, so why do you refuse to accept their advice? Would you ignore advice from your accountant? So why do it from your PR agency?
Do remember the agency has its own business to run
If you want someone to be on 24-hr call exclusively for you then you should hire your own PR team. While an agency will be as responsive as possible you need to be aware that sometimes they may have to do some work for other clients.
Don't overwork the agency through mismanagement
There is little in life more frustrating than have a heated 'debate' with someone about a topic, only to find out that the confusion has been caused because they didn't read your email ... or being asked for a third time to send over a document … or even being asked for a report to be sent within the hour for a meeting that has been in their diary for a month.
You won't endear your agency to you if you mismanage them and you may even find that they send you higher invoices than you expected - all of this extra work takes time.
Do remember to praise
Nearly all PR people want to get the best results for their clients and enjoy getting you good coverage. By letting them know that you appreciated it too they'll work even harder to get it for you again.
Perhaps the easiest way to summarise all of this is as follows: know what you're talking about, demand the best results, offer praise when you receive them, but work together with your agency if you don't.
Patrick Smith is the founder of virtual PR agency Joshua PR, created to work with clients in a different way.