On the client-agency relationship, founder of Media Survey Sam Whitmore once said: “‘Sometimes the client just wants a point-of-view.’ That’s beautiful. The next time I need a doctor or lawyer, I think I’ll just ask for their point-of-view before I go ahead and treat myself or defend myself.”

Whether you’re hiring an agency to handle your PR or marketing, success boils down to one thing—your relationship with one another.

Having an agency means having more people on your team. That means more people fighting on your side, looking out for your company’s success. For that success to happen smoothly, here are a few basics to follow.

Identify what you know or don’t know.

Whether you’ve worked with other agencies before or are testing to see if it’s right for your company, be honest with what you know or don’t know. Articulating your team’s needs and asking questions will not only benefit your team, but gives the agency a better understanding of your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Establish roles.

There are bound to be days where you and your agency just can’t quite find the right rhythm. There might be a lot of moving parts being worked on for a campaign or a press release that needs different levels of approval. No matter how chaotic it can get, establish who’s doing what in each part of the process.

Make one person the primary point of contact between your team and the agency. This can help streamline getting answers to questions or certain approvals.

Define the expectations.

Every detail, whether it’s a certain tactic or part of a bigger goal in a campaign, matters. The agency side can’t always read the client’s mind. The clearer the expectation you can provide from the smallest tasks to the money-making moves, the better the work an agency can do for you.

Collaboration over conflict.

It’s shocking how many client-agency relationships are filled with tension. Guys—we’re on the same team, right?

Every relationship can have issues from time to time. Whatever the issue may be, it won’t get solved by blaming or fighting one another. Yes, it can feel easy to point the finger at someone or expect the problem to be resolved on its own, but that can create an unhealthy relationship.

A good agency will take accountability if they mess up something. The best strategy for getting over those bumps in the road (and keeping the client-agency relationship healthy) is to have a focus on collaboration over conflict.

Stick to the strategy.

Every company wants to be in the New York Times or have the next viral campaign. But if every company could do these things every single time, those grand slams wouldn’t have the same credibility or be as special. This is why sticking to the strategy matters.

Whether you’re a giant financial firm or the small grocery store around the corner, you have to figure out where you’re going before you jump. Following the strategy that you decide on with your agency can get you one step closer to the end goal you have in sight.

Take advantage of their brainpower.

Some agencies are very workmanlike; they provide you with arms and legs to get things done. But the best agencies also augment your brain—they should be up to date on the latest trends and ideas, and they should be able to bring new concepts to you. These are often the opportunities to create something truly remarkable.

To get the best results, sometimes you need to take a little risk. Find a balance in being open to what your agency is proposing, but speak up if you think it might not be right for your brand. Listen, think things over and don’t be afraid to go out on a limb with some ideas.

Invest the time.

You put time into your own clients or services. The same should go for giving time to your agency. The more an agency can learn about your business and industry from you the client, the better ideas, strategies and results they can present to you.

Don’t think of your hired agency as just another app you download to feel like you made progress and checked the box. Once the hiring process is over, that’s just the beginning of the work on both sides.

Let your agency do what they’re great at.

One positive outcome of hiring an agency to help with your marketing, PR, content, etc., is that they can take you to the next level in these areas. It’s a common goal for all agencies—to help a client get even better results than before you hired them. If the project or product falls under your established goal and your agency can make a solid argument for what they’re proposing, let them go for it.

If you chose the right agency, they know what they’re talking about.

It’s likely they have done similar work to what they’re proposing to do for you. It’s also likely they can see the potential results and risks just as well if not better than you the client can—whether it’s with an article, press release, social media ad, etc. Let them demonstrate why you were smart to hire them.

Be flexible. 

The world of communications can be a scary place sometimes. A plan or strategy you and your agency might commit to in the beginning might not work as expected. Don’t worry—your agency is there to support and guide you through these times, but it can help to be flexible when the strategies or goals may need to change. It’s also smart to understand this flexibility when you’re agreeing to contract terms; you don’t want to put both you and the agency into a box that no longer makes sense.


At the end of the day, no matter how crazy that day can get, you hired your agency for a reason. Unless the team you choose is consistently failing to meet your standards and needs, trust that they are working in your best interest. Success for you is success for them. (And if you don’t feel like your success is their top priority … maybe hire someone else.)