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When to get divorced in PR?

There comes a time in every PR and client relationship when it is time to say goodbye. Mostly initiated by clients, but even agencies can do so in certain situations.

PRmoment India spoke to both sides to find out the most common reasons for the break up and what clients look for when hiring a new agency.

Why do clients want in a new agency?

Sushmita Bandopadhyay, communications and identity advisor, Becton, Dickinson & Co, says if there are, “niggling issues about deliveries from the agency which remain unattended to it can trigger dissatisfaction in the agency-client relationship.”

She adds that sometimes there is a, “lack of ability to do forward thinking and educate clients on communication trends.”

Subhash Pais, founder and business head, i9 Communications Pvt Ltd. comments on when it is time to change an agency, “As someone heading an agency I  would be tempted to chime back with a resounding 'NEVER' but let's be realistic. If I was to slip into a client's shoes then some of the best reasons to change would be that the agency wasn't capable, agency billing was unethical, and there was a big difference between what was promised at the pitch to what was delivered.”

Pais also says that there are reasons not always related to performance. One could be, “Because the client got funded – which happens in start-ups these days where the start-up decides it wants to associate with a bigger agency in keeping with its new status, the marketing head/CMO changes and wants his own trusted agencies on board and promoters of the company look to head into a new direction and are looking for some sort of specialisation currently not available with the incumbent agency (IPO, M&A ).”

Top reasons for firing an agency
  • Agency wasn't capable
  • Agency billing was unethical
  • Big difference between what was promised at the pitch to what was delivered
  • Client got funded
  • Marketing Head/CMO changes and wants his own trusted agencies on board
  • Promoters of the company look to head into a new direction and are looking for fresh specialisation

Xavier Prabhu, Founder & CEO, PRHUB says one of the common reasons is financial, namely either lower quotes by other agencies or lower budgets.

Prabhu also points out that clients should think of changing agencies if, “After working for a year or more, the agency still does not understand the business and culture or the key focus areas of the client well.”

Prabhu adds, “While issues are common, if the client and agency teams always find themselves in two corners, it’s probably time for a change.”

Why should agencies let go of a client?

There are times when even agencies come to the difficult decision of letting go of a client.

Pais feels strongly about non-payment by clients, saying, “Forgive anything but never forgive a client who doesn't pay after having committed. Fire the client for this for sure or else you set a bad precedent for the industry and not just for yourself.”

Pais also includes toxic behaviour such as reasons to fire a client as well as, “poaching agency's employees, sexual overtures of any kind, client behaviour not in keeping with the organisation values, bullying agency employees, consistently rude and abusive behaviour.”

He says, “All of these can be brought to the notice of the top management before any action is initiated by the agency.”

Top reasons for firing a client

  • Non-payment or late payment
  • Does not take agency into confidence
  • Poaching employees
  • Bullying or abusive behaviour
  • Sexual Harassment

For Prabhu the no-go behaviours’ include, “Saying all the right things but never involving the agency in major decisions. As well as keep asking for ideas, take them but never have the budgets for them. Or worse, internally execute themselves taking the credit for it.”

Prabhu adds, “In general clients change agencies for reasons that are not so logical. Thinking the change will bring new thinking and keep budgets in control. In many cases it has worked in the reverse. The agency will start looking out and will invest its efforts into the short term but with no focus on the medium to long-term. And the client is the one who will suffer in the end, though in the short run everything seems fine. Also unless it is a long-term partnership certain objectives can never be reasonably achieved or certain programs never conceived, owned and delivered.”

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