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How to work with a London PR agency

Written by Simpatico PR

Posted on 2020-05-05

There is something special about agencies.

It doesn't matter if it is a PR agency, advertising agency, design innovation hot shop, digital media agency or an agency with deep expertise customer experience marketing and data, agencies are a particular type of business with unique qualities.

They exist to do things that clients can’t. Whether that’s a start-up company or a massive corporation or a public organisation, the point of an agency is to contribute specialist expertise and deliver work a business or organisation is not equipped to achieve on their own.

Sometimes this is because it’s more efficient to have certain external resource, but in many cases it’s is because an objective external point of view and a more agile working structure, delivers better results.

Certainly, in the sphere of PR, agencies are there to contribute fresh ideas and an independent perspective on business or communications challenges.

But what’s it like working with a PR agency and particularly a London PR agency?

Some things clients should know

There is something about the internal culture that good agencies create that is very appealing.

On the inside of a PR agency, it’s a bit like being in an intellectually energised gang, which roams around its client base dolling out bright ideas and making things happen.

We understand we’re in the service business. We’re paid to add value through ability and expertise.

Typically, PR agency life is fast paced. Client work in the form of media relations pitching or content development can come thick and fast, but so to do requests for advice and counsel to get the best results from a particular initiative, or to solve a delicate challenge.

The best client / PR agency relationships form when a bond of trust and understanding grows around this work. A “we own it together” attitude will develop if the give and take in the relationship is balance.

Having a clear framework of deliverables against fees is of course an essential starting point. But there’s more to it than that.

Clients who challenge agencies to create great outcomes but with an understanding of what’s realistic, tend to get better results.

A human-centred approach to working relationships under-pinned by realistic timeframes and workflows, is also important.

In other words, clients who remember their PR agencies are manned by (very talented) mortals, will probably get the best out of a relationship.

Expect to be challenged – honestly

The days when PR agencies just did what they were told are long gone.

Not only has a deep ethical framework taken root across the PR industry, which has created strong guidance for agency professionals where its needed, but PR agencies have changed too.

Most London PR agencies will not play the role of press release factory. They expect to provide consultancy not just delivery.

This means healthy PR agency / client relationships are usually framed by mutual respect and a desire from the client side for informed, strategic advice around business messaging if not the actual proposition itself.

Good PR agencies will challenge what they hear if it is not credible or advisable and they’ll provide alternatives.

So, expect to have honest discussions. There are no emperors with new clothes in PR.

Remember you are buying a team

One of the interesting things about PR and particularly business-to-business public relations (B2B PR) is the team ethic. While journalism is more often than not, an individual sport, a PR agency is all about teamwork.

A London PR agency is typically structured around client account teams with a typical hierarchy including account executives, account managers and account directors.

The ethic is all about mutual support and shared problem solving. It’s likely no one person will have to solve a problem alone and client copy will be seen by several pairs of eyes (as it is on news and entertainment titles before publication). Discussing, editing, learning and advising are all part of the daily mix.

But in a growing number of PR agencies, you’ll find an increasingly flat structure when it comes to developing ideas that will help a client achieve positive media exposure.

In a world where the pace of news and technology is frenetic, senior people in London PR agencies have learned to listen to every voice at the table, because great ideas and insights can come from anyone.

In smaller, boutique PR agencies this can mean people progress rapidly. Clients increasingly take note of PR agency talent they work with at all levels.

The business and cultural scene

London PR agencies particularly benefit from being immersed in London’s rich media scene, which is itself part of the huge UK creative industries including everything from advertising, design, fashion and tech.

London PR agencies have access to a diverse pool of talent supported by generally high awareness amongst school age students and college graduates about news media, social media, what PR agencies do and why companies use them.

All this tends to give London agencies a competitive advantage in terms of the talent and expertise they can field.

The regional hub club

In B2B PR international companies in number of industries, tend to structure global PR around a few “hub” markets which include the USA, UK, Germany and APAC (often Singapore).

London PR agencies are often included as a hub market because they can both overlap with US media out-reach and northern European markets (with some exceptions). It’s also the case that many agency teams boast multi-lingual talent.

A considerable amount of English language PR can in fact be done to some degree from the UK, which together with the other benefits, gives London PR agencies an advantageous position.

Working with a London PR agency, is then an opportunity to create brilliant work, but also tap into a culture that is fascinating and enriching.

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