Siddhartha Mukherjee: Why Agencies lose Clients despite Data showing Good Work!

26 Oct,2017

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


‘PR needs PR’ is one success mantra that I have been etching on the industry walls since Day One.The latest addition to my list ismy blind belief that the Client-PR Agency relationship should be long-lasting! Clients switching agencies every three-odd years will not help. To ensure real quality growth, the client-agency relationship needs to go way beyond the three-year average. I understand that certain divorces are beyond the control of CorpComm and Agency. However, majority ofcases are where agencies have had to part ways despite neutral data showing that they have done a bloody good job!

Why have agencies parted ways or have been asked to leave?

Some quick possible reasons?

  1. No clarity on WHY does the Client need PR (Agency): The eternal black hole continues. Why do we need PR? Or a CorpComm? Or a PR Agency for that matter is addressed very shallowly and tactically. Not strategically. For many on the Client side, PR or Agency still continues to be a function about getting CXOs profiled, manage negative news, issue a line of press releases or manage events. When the expectation setting is so shallow, mood swings on the Client side is bound to destroy Agency value and longevity.


  1. PR Agencies do not support their case with REAL DATA: When the base is shallow, PR Agencies start digging their grave by hiring tactical or jugaad executives for servicing the client. This team has no inkling of what will exactly impress CorpComm and his or her internal customers. Furthermore, the agency servicing desk has zilch understanding of the kind of data to maintain or showcase at the time of appraisal. The cancerous AVE/EAV, count of articles, thickness of clippings dossier, etc. are archaic numbers that the agency would throw at the Client…only to dig deeper into the grave!


  1. CorpCommdoesnot understand data: It is sad but true! While not many but a good chunk of CorpComm professionals have no understanding of RESEARCH, DATA, MEASUREMENT, and so on. Their responsibility revolves around pushing out press releases, chasing papers for publishing those, applying jugaad to manage a negative news, create newsletters, manage events…add on a few here and there…pretty much like the PRO of yester years. However, the core urgency of CorpComm himself being able to do “PR for PR” within his internal customers through scientific data and measurement can do better! No wonder, Agencies will be perceived as jugaadvendors whose costs can be negotiated in exchange of dhaniya, mirchi, and what not.


  1. Internal customers of CorpComm have not been educated through data: Pretty much connected with why we need PR and the Agency, many a times, CXOs and other internal customers have no clue on the exact value that PR Agencies bring to the table. No wonder, procurement/commercial teams are directed to take charge of fee negotiations.


  1. Agencies wanting a specific threshold of retainer fee: The surprise element is that nowadays, agencies are working a business model where they are avoiding client fees below a specific threshold. As a result, they are the ones who are sending the divorce notice to clients.

Like I mentioned earlier, there can be many other reasons to the Client-Agency divorce. However, the above are very commonly heard. While it is sad but this hints at a huge opportunity for agencies to start using REAL DATA.

In my next article, we will focus on what an Agency can do to make a comeback and salvage the divorce.



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