Public relations is a competitive industry. The economy is tough and the quest for new business is constant. Your friend from PRSA may very well be your top competition in the next new business presentation.
In order to be successful, we as agency professionals must be careful not to give away too much; including client information or insight that may weaken our firm’s competitive edge. This can be even more difficult when we work on client programs in close collaboration with our competitors.
Joint efforts have become de rigueur for many organizations, whether it’s working with a client and their vendor’s agency to launch a new product or representing a member of an industry association. Conflicts, territoriality and compromises often pose significant challenges. An agency’s conduct in such situations impacts its ability to achieve success and recognition, for their client and also for the firm.
Agency professionals fail when they sacrifice their client’s best interests under the guise of protecting a firm’s “intellectual property.” Too often account representatives try to one-up the competition by scouring material and communication searching for the other agency’s typos or omissions to media lists. They provide names of reporters they would like to invite to an event but refuse to provide the contact information.
That kind of “gotcha” mentality inevitably proves counterproductive for everyone. It not only costs the client money but also creates unnecessary distractions. Billable time is wasted when it could better be applied producing results.
To be sure, each agency does have an obligation to look after their client and their firm’s best interests. Each organization will have individual objectives, and your client’s objectives may not always match those of the partner company or they may prefer a different approach to certain tasks. The trick is to work closely with your client to determine in advance what they are willing to let go and what aspects they are prepared to hold firm onto that are most important. For example, instead of providing an influential reporter’s unpublished contact information, another option is to simply take responsibility for communicating with her.
Your client and the others involved in the project are much more likely to remember your outstanding client service and problem solving rather than which agency produced a reporter email address first. Most importantly, results matter. A successful campaign will leave a positive impression on your client and the partner organization. After all, you never know when they may be looking to switch firms…