This is part two of a three-part series on healthy, successful business relationships between companies and outsourced partners. Part one focused on finding your best client/PR agency fit.
As business professionals, we work with outsourced partners with specific expertise. Like personal relationships, business partnerships need time, attention, and, yes, a little bit of love.
While I’m not going to go all “relationship therapy” on you, there are some interesting parallels. Why? Because we are people working with, wait for it…other people.
I’m sharing experiences as a PR agency owner, specifically related to the agency/client partnership. But, the same thinking applies to accounting, legal, consultants or other outsourced team members we work with.
Without further ado, let’s get on to four tips to keeping your agency/client relationships healthy.
1 – Really focus on “loving the one you’re with.”
You and your team selected the agency or client for a reason. Likely, it was a combination of common values, respect for each other’s expertise and the ability to get the job done. Plus, your shared love of quoting The Office or any Chris Farley movie may have been an added bonus. Just sayin’.
Keep that partnership thriving by taking the time to understand more about each other on a personal and professional level. It can be as structured as starting your meetings with personal and professional “bests” or as informal as talking families, sports, the latest restaurants or interesting campaigns you’ve seen. Make time to talk with your client/agency partner about business issues. Your business and their business. And really listen.
2 – Open, honest communication gets top billing.
Where people are involved, there will be issues. They are, however, just issues waiting to be solved.
Is it a struggle to get the information you need, or have you noticed recently that deadlines are being missed? It’s not time to avoid confrontation. No one benefits from allowing things to fester.
Quite the opposite. It’s actually the best time to practice open and honest communication on what you need to see more/less of. Schedule a call or meeting to address the issue. We’ve always found “candor with courtesy” to be effective in handling crucial conversations.
At the end of the day, when you handle those relationship/performance issues swiftly, it actually strengthens your “like and trust” of each other.
3 – Identify each other’s “business love language.” And use it.
Yep, it sounds hokey. Hang in there with me. When we speak and conduct business in terms of what’s most important to the client/agency partner, we’re more effective. Very little gets lost in translation. The client and the agency partner both feel valued. You’re able to swiftly address issues head-on, and, with less drama.
Well-known author of the “love languages” book series Gary Chapman calls the concept the “Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” Simply put, appreciation helps build work relationships.
4 – Do what you say. Or better.
We can have great rapport with your clients or agency partners, but if we falter on “making the magic happen” – then your relationships take a hit.
You can call it follow-through, execution, hitting your metrics, etc. Translation? Get. Your. Stuff. Done. And, it doesn’t hurt to sprinkle in some surprise and delight. Finish a project before deadline and under budget – but don’t sacrifice quality. Your goal was three media stories? Deliver four. If there’s a chance you’ll miss a target – identify it early, discuss why, and come up with solutions.
Nothing strengthens mutual trust more than delivering on your promise.
- Agency and client relationships are just that – relationships that require authentic TLC.
- Open communication – early and often – is key. Agency teams or clients can’t keep improving if they don’t hear your honest feedback.
- Much like with personal relationships – we all have our business “languages of appreciation.” Identify what those are, and use them.
- Get the “do” done, effectively. Consider it your own professional trust bank you build with each other.
Kim McKeeman is the founder and CEO of McKeeman Communications, a 23-year-old public relations agency with offices in NC and TN. McKeeman Communications specializes in issues management, crisis communications, media relations, social media and community relations.