Siddhartha Mukherjee: Ideal Client Expectations from a PR Agency

17 Aug,2017

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


Like advertising agencies built theadvertising industry, PR agencies have built our earned media industry. Our PR or earned media industry has come a long way…Salute! The hardships and challenges that they have overcome is incomparable. Infact, it is despite these challenges that they have also helped the advertising industry grow to a size and stature we know of today (link of my first article)!

PR agencies have consciously transformed themselves. It has been a very tenacious and organic transformation. For clients, their value and credibility has only increased.

Let us look at what a client ideally expects from a PR agency today! As compared to 10 or 20 years back, while some have transformed, some basic ones still remain.

1.   PR is no longer a Jugaad of Journalists: Gone are the days when a client will hire an agency only to stop the publishing of negative news or get space for a story irrespective of its merit. Jugaad was the gamechanger then. Being able to dine and wine was one of the key skillsets. Today, jugaad skills have become minority. Today, Corporate Brand Reputation Management is about understanding stakeholders, their thinking and ensuring that their belief in client brand remains unaltered irrespective of Business As Usual or Business Not As Usual.

2.   Know the Brand Building Process: Ask a candidate why he or she chose PR as a career, still, atleast 50% of them will justify it by replying “I like meeting people”. Client is expecting that the use of PR or Earned Media as another or integrated alternative to holistic brand building. Client is expecting that one would therefore have an understanding of target audience, messaging, unique proposition, the end of communication objective, etc.

3.   Come for Meetings on Time: This is one of my personal favourites. One of the basic hygiene issues that clients still complain about is that their agency servicing team is not punctual or serious about timelines. Respecting meeting time is a key area. While I have seen that some clients encourage or are cool about this, however, by and large, this still remains to the sore point for most clients.

4.   Dress Sensibly: Hmm! I have personally seen and have even heard clients talk about bizarre dressing sense of their agency personnel. Does not matter whether it is a regular client meeting or an event, the least client expects is that the agency personnel will dress “decently” and “as per the occasion”. Outlandish, minimal, exposing, indecent, tacky, well, descriptives like these are what clients have used to describe some of their servicing team members. Mind you, this is for both the sexes.

5.   Talk my language, not yours!: Client has hired the agency so that it can understand the client’s business, plan out and execute a communication plan for the business and show its effectiveness as per the client’s business model. Why should the client/end-elient listen to jargons, expressions and explanations that belong to the PR industry! Talk to the client in business language.

6.   Show ROI & ROO through Research and Measurement!: I have long maintained that AVEs/EAVs is a cancer for the Industry.  Clients want to know whether their agency’s work has brought returns for the client’s business in terms of objectives and on Investments. Towards this, the client is expecting the agency to adopt the science of research, planning and measurement. It is only through this that the client will understand the value their PR agency is bringing on the table.

7.   Don’t React, Pro-act: Client is expecting that the PR cgency will ensure that the client’s brand is seen and heard with equal thrust and credibility every month, month-on-month. Hence, working only during product launch phases is a sub-standard delivery. Client is depending on PR Agency’s acumen to create media exposure even during lull months and also beyond launches.

8.   Understand the subject called Reputation: Nowadays, the word reputation is quite abused. Everyone likes to talk or show themselves as experts of this subject. Not just that, for some reputation starts and ends with journalist and news management. For a client, this is a small drop. Reputation is an ocean. Client is expecting the agency to dive into the client organisation’s matrix and study HR, Finance, Vendor, Marketing, Customer, and all other corridors and suggest ways of strengthening or avoiding Reputation damage.


Well, the list can be long. In today’s age, understanding of digital, advertising, content creation, and many other one-stop services are also suitable mentions in the above, but the idea is start with the basics, especially the ones that have been bone of contention for years!


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