Making magic happen: how to build client-agency chemistry in PR
Written by Paul Maher
To some, chemistry is a form of magic. From the oldest to the youngest, we all marvel at chemical phenomena happening every day all around us, like rust, combustion or baking.
There’s a lot to learn. Who knew the reaction causing the crust to brown is known as the Maillard reaction? Chemical reactions are, of course, natural, but still seem like magic to the uninitiated.
Chemistry between a PR agency and its clients can look just as magical and intangible as the Pharaoh’s Serpent. Unlike natural phenomena, however, this particular kind of magic looks effortless, but it is not.
Crucially, a PR professional needs to understand their clients’ job: what makes them tick, which results make a difference to their business and how to make them look good in the eyes of their customers and prospects. There is little sense in burning hours to create results that fall flat – a common mistake in the PR world. This ‘busy work’ frustrates and alienates clients, who can then in turn deflate the PR team’s morale.
It starts with hard listening
The first skill of a great PR is listening hard when talking to clients. Listening in this profession is more than taking nice notes and parroting them back to the client. It’s about processing the information, adding in the context of industry knowledge and media expertise, then reverting to the client with added value. Clients then feel supported by the agency, and this fosters great relations and the confidence they can rely on us to take their ideas out into the real world.
Then there is empathy. Professionals in all sectors make the mistake of thinking their point of view is the correct one and allowing no room for feedback. Corporate in-house teams operate in structures the PR agency does not share. It’s crucial to keep in sync with the client’s business, to deliver the results that make a difference. Equally, it’s crucial for clients to listen to hard-earned PR expert counsel. A little empathy goes a long way to both sides winning.
In the luckiest of cases, chemistry seems to just appear ‘on its own’. We often see truly symbiotic relationships where both client and PR agent are in tune with each other from the start, and quickly work together to get great results.
However, In some unfortunate cases, a lack of personal chemistry stands in the way of delivering the best work. That is when it’s time to find a different approach, which will work instead. Most of the time however you may find yourself somewhere in the middle. Curiosity which builds understanding, hard listening and informed empathy are the greatest allies in learning how to work together.
The best agency/client chemistry is the result of learning from experimentation over time. This is why we believe PR is one of the most rounded careers there is, whether your first degree is science or arts. We may not be magicians, but PR management skills developed over time are the magic ingredient to delivering results both client and agency can be proud of.