As PR agencies work more closely with their clients on strategic marketing and communications, odds are more true partnerships are likely to emerge. But as in any partnership, a system for managing differences of opinion and compromise must be in place.
Every organization has its own style and own way of making decisions, and it's best to work out the differences in style at the beginning of an agency/client partnership.
Below are several tips regarding how to manage agency-client decision making and potential conflicts, courtesy of Ned Barnett, founder of Barnett Marketing Communications.
- Assess both parties’ “conflict styles.” Identify how an agency responds and how a client responds. This will dictate both the path of the conflict and the nature of the resolution.
- Assess possible conflict resolution processes, including attack, negotiation, mediation, diplomacy, peace offering or even surrender.
- Respond to the crisis. At some point, the crisis will impact both organizations. How you respond will influence the conflict’s ultimate resolution.
- Candidly accept responsibility for your part, offer a solution, and either work toward an agreement or resign the account.
- Follow through. This is where the conflict is ultimately resolved, for good or ill.
- Manage reputation and restore image. If the conflict goes public, this obviously applies to the client, but it can also apply to your agency if you publicly lost the client. If it reaches that point, how you handle the former client will impact your ability to find new ones.
Follow Ned Barnett on Twitter: @nedbarnett
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1