From an agency perspective, the benefits of working with the same client year after year are invaluable. The teams learn each other inside and out, trust and honest communication are established and nurtured, the agency team typically obtains a deep understanding of the client’s business—well beyond its marketing goals—and for the client, time is not lost every couple of years retraining a team from the ground up.
But with every long-term relationship there can be challenges to overcome. Ironically, over the last few days I have found myself answering questions on this very topic, ranging from clients in need of an honest conversation about results to college students seeking informational interviews about the communications field and agency life.
I am grateful for these questions, in part, because it is so important to step back from what’s “always worked” and be challenged to rethink everything. This applies to in-house teams too, not just the client and agency relationship. All communicators are guilty of relying a little too much on past successes. But in today’s overwhelmingly competitive media, digital and social landscape, this can lead to getting stale, fast.
Reflecting on the current conversations we’re having, I believe the following approaches to tearing up all or parts of a long-standing PR playbook can be extremely valuable:
- Get outside. This can be approached figuratively, like the “Outta the Box” internal brainstorms GFM teams host monthly on behalf of clients with colleagues who do not work on an account in order to get totally new ideas. Or, teams and clients can literally get outside of the office – hike, museum stroll, rock climbing gym – to converse, share and ideate in a new and creative setting, which can help spark unfiltered thinking and cut down on dismissing new ideas like we tend to do around conference room tables.
- Audit the team. Are people fatigued and in need of focusing on something else for awhile? There should be no shame in needing to take a break from a legacy program or client, and oftentimes infusing a fresh perspective into a team is all that’s needed for a sizable shift in strategy and results.
- Take a panoramic view. We can sometimes get tunnel vision and forgot to look and up evaluate all of the outside factors that may be impacting the health of our communications program. Has competition in the industry picked up? Have we not embraced an important trend? Have we exhausted one communications vertical, and do we need to seek new audiences altogether?
- Put it all on the table. An agency partner or internal marketing team can only think as fresh and as critically as you need them to if they are given all of the information. That means giving them a seat at the table for tough conversations about business objectives, sales, etc.
Each long-term relationship in this industry is incredibly important. However, it’s often these same relationships where we can forget to shake things up, and when left to operate on auto pilot for too long, everyone walks away disappointed. How else do you approach keeping it fresh with legacy clients and projects in order to deepen loyalty and business partnerships?