PR Pros: Freshen Your Thinking to Retain Your Best Clients

By: Guest | February 11, 2013 | 

Today’s guest post is by Victoria Harris.

Many PR consultancies spend a significant amount of their time and resources on proactively searching for new business and developing proposals.

Some larger agencies will have teams who spend all of their time on this area.

However, with increased competiveness due to the challenging economic climate, agencies would be short-sighted to focus disproportionately on generating new business, while neglecting retained clients.

Loyalty from retained clients can no longer be seen as a given.

In the 1980s, the average client-agency relationship lasted seven and a half years; yet by 2007, this was down to just three and a half.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 7,000 public relations firms in the United States, so competition is fierce.

Twenty years ago, PR was a lot about connections and networking, wining and dining prospective clients at the latest new restaurant. However, with the growth of technology, there are experts all over the country – and beyond – that may be fighting for the same business.

With the cost of gaining new clients significantly higher than retaining existing ones, now is the time to review campaigns currently being delivered and consider whether they could benefit from a totally new creative direction.

Here are a number of suggestions for how to deliver exciting new ideas to existing clients:

  • Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your existing campaigns. If your current strategy maximizes the use of online PR, it’s advisable to continue this focus, but look at ways it could be enhanced. Perhaps integrating with a social media or SEO campaign would deliver an even higher return-on-investment.
  • Depending on budgets, undertaking market research to understand how a brand is currently being perceived by its target audience will help you to form successful strategies. Perhaps asking them which marketing methods they respond to, and the media they read, will also create a better picture. If this research is taken on an annual basis, it can prove to be a valuable asset in keeping hold of clients.
  • Undertake a thorough assessment of your clients’ current competitors to ascertain what has worked for them. This way you can identify the types of campaign the target market wants.
  • Big, creative campaigns are often the key to winning business, but it is worth analyzing the long-term benefits of these and whether they resonate in consumers’ minds for a long period of time. The investment required for experiential activity must be worthwhile and perhaps some simpler ideas that will lead to media coverage will be more beneficial. Clients who know and trust you will no doubt appreciate your honesty, particularly if it saves them additional budget!
  • Tap into all the resources you have at your disposal. Running a regular brainstorm with all members of the team will help to keep ideas fresh, particularly if you seek the opinion of those who are not so close to the client.
  • Consider teaming up with an on-brand organization for mutual benefit. Reaching out to a few potential partners to assess their interest will help to refresh your strategy, and also can share the cost.

It is important to always remain creative with clients, particularly those who have been retained for some time. With the average client-agency relationship lasting less than four years, even before the recession hit, it is more important than ever to stay on the front foot.

Many agencies only refresh ideas when the relationship has stagnated, or the contract is coming to an end, but ensuring creativity on retained accounts is a high priority will no doubt have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Victoria Harris is an account director at Punch Communications, an integrated PR, social media, and SEO agency. For further information, please visit

  • PattiRoseKnight

    Having a brainstorm and inviting staff to attend who do not work on that particular client business is a great idea – sometimes you’re too close to a situation and a new set of ideas might just be the thing for the client (an you).

    • @PattiRoseKnight Agree with you, sometimes you need some people that can think “out-of-the-box” so people that don’t work on that project is an great idea!

  • That point on big, creative vs. simpler campaigns makes a lot of sense to me.
    It’s tempting to spend $ on big ideas, but doing something like asking a client “what are some great stories from your  cust. service or research departments?” could get you good return at lower cost, and communicate better w/consumers and journos.

    • @JoeCardillo Thanks Joe, I agree, I always find being open and transparent with clients is greatly appreciated and returns lucrative results.

  • I totally agree with the premise of your post. Earlier in my career I worked for a large PR firm in Toronto and was often perplexed by their disproportionate focus on pitching/attracting new clients at the risk of ignoring or under-serving their existing client roster. Thanks for the post.

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