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Replacing the Weakest Link

Image of rusty, broken link by Darwin BellZDNet published a study by Jennifer Leggio, director of strategic communications for Fortinet, with some intriguing findings into PR agency relationships. The most startling statistic? More than 40 percent of respondents claimed they are considering switching agencies.

At a macro level, survey respondents said they were fairly satisfied with their PR agency relationships. However, satisfaction numbers plummeted in a number of specific and important areas. Of particular note was how few felt that their agency team understands their core business objectives or understands that PR needs to support and accelerate the entire business strategy, not just generate coverage for company news.

Leggio posits that understanding the client’s business objectives is essential if agencies are to keep clients, and the same goes for social media prowess and PR program measurement.

Almost 80% responded that it is “extremely important” for their PR agency to show a proven understanding of how social media strategies apply to business. And it’s more than just being facile with new tools, it’s knowing when and how to use them to meet specific client needs.

Forrester’s senior social computing analyst, Jeremiah Oywyang, also stresses the importance of demonstrating social media prowess. While he stops short of saying that companies will leave agencies that don’t “walk the talk” relative to social media in 2009, he soundly rejects the “cobbler’s children” argument and he puts both vendors and agencies on notice that he’ll be mentioning examples — positive and negative — on his blog.

For agencies, the difference between gaining and losing clients in 2009 may well come down to how well the agency’s team can demonstrate a solid understanding of clients’ core business goals, how well they can articulate a social media strategy that helps clients achieve their stated business goals and whether they are able to put in place measurement tools that show the ROI of all PR efforts, both traditional and “new.”

Sterling Communications was only one of six agencies that “were consistently named as viable considerations for clients considering an agency switch.” From the CEO on down, every employee is actively engaged in conversations with the influencers, communities and networks that matter to high-tech markets. Read more about Sterling’s approach to social media training for clients, or start following us around the web. The icons at the top right of the site should get you started.

Image credit: Darwin Bell

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