10 Key Agency-Client Relationship Questions To Help Avoid A Relationship Train Wreck

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We’re excited to have Jim Barbagallo guest post on a topic near and dear to us, The Agency-Client Relationship.

Read on for 10 key agency-client relationship questions that will help you check your Agency-Client pulse.

Quick note about Jim-he’s the CEO of Pilot Communications Group, an integrated communications agency providing content-centered, business-aligned public relations, public affairs, marketing and creative services to information technology, healthcare product, healthcare services and non-profit organizations.

Agency-Client Relationship

Agency-client relationships that aren’t working well tend to decline over time. Occasionally, a public relations agency will get fired over a single mishap, like a poorly executed tweet by a young staffer or a major round-up story naming all of your client’s competitors — but leaves out your client.

Even if a key account team member leaves the agency, a good client is likely to give its agency the opportunity to replenish the team. If team members keep leaving the agency, however — well that’s another story altogether.

Generally, though, an agency-client relationship will disintegrate bit-by-bit vs. in one fell swoop.

Things work much the same way as they do in our personal relationships.

Friendships and oftentimes romantic relationships break down over the course of weeks, months and years.

People and organizations can simply grow apart.

The experienced business person can usually see a relationship train wreck coming miles away

— despite best efforts to preserve it.

But this is not always the case because us humans have become quite good at camouflaging our honest opinions and feelings hoping things will improve on their own so that we can avoid an uncomfortable situation — the dreaded confrontation.

Or change…because making changes in our lives…both professional and personal…is so darn hard.

Well, far be it from me to advise anyone on maintaining personal relationships.

But I do know a thing or two about nurturing agency-client relationships having lived through many, great long-term ones and a few that had the shelf life of the average CMO.

Here are a few questions to consider that will go a long way toward helping you avoid the dreaded relationship train wreck with your agency.

Agency-Client Relationship

10 key agency-client relationship questions

  1. Does your agency team know your business, markets and your customers at least as well as you do?
  2. Do your agency account team leaders understand your internal pressures or do they only see the world through one lens — theirs?
  3. Is your agency team visible and communicating with you enough?
  4. If not, why not?
  5. Do you think your agency team is too busy working on other accounts or out trying to win new ones?
  6. Is your business important enough to them?
  7. When do you see or hear from the senior-most agency executives — only when there’s a problem or only when there’s good news to share?
  8. Are the agency’s senior client service pros truly engaged with your business, in the trenches with the account team generating ideas and creating insights to propel your communications program forward?
  9. Is your agency listening to you or do they insist on doing things only their way and have a hissy fit when you insist on an alternative approach?
  10. Does your agency hold itself accountable by following through on its commitments or has accountability waned since the early days of engagement?

What would you add to the list? And good luck with your mid-year assessments!

As founder of Pilot Communications Group, LLC, Jim brings together nearly 30 years of strategic and hands-on communications and marketing experience. Following more than a decade of corporate communications experience, with stints at Apollo Computer, HP and Digital, Jim shifted his career path to the other side of the table. His agency career began in 1998 at Copithorne & Bellows (C&B), a global tech PR firm that lived up to its promise of keeping senior professionals deeply involved with client work.
Following the firm’s merger with Porter Novelli, a top 10 global PR agency, Jim served as a managing director/partner of the Boston office during which time he led global communications initiatives for brands such as HP, BMC Software and Analog Devices while helping to launch and establish emerging companies including IBRX (acquired by HP), NeuStar and Sociocast.
Following an 11-year run with global agencies, Jim helped launch a start-up tech communications consultancy, served as managing director at reputation communications firm Morrissey & Company and led client relations for PAN Communications.
Outside of work, Jim’s passions including running, cycling, golf and family (not in that order).
Jim tweets @jimbarbagallo

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at lee@rswus.com. What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.