“PR Week tackled the thorny subject of PR overservicing last week. It follows a study of more than 400 UK PR professionals by Ginger Research in association with the PRCA which revealed that 90% of agencies over-service clients.
PR Week sought lots of industry opinions which told us (amongst other things) that PRs hate timesheets and need to offer value. It seems to me that the one thing that’s missing in the current conversation around over-servicing is the absence of clear advice. PR overservicing is something I think we all agree is an issue. But what’s the solution? Not overservicing clients shouldn’t be used as an agency differentiator – it should be an industry standard. It’s tough to achieve without a more consistent approach to pricing retainers & time-tracking across agencies. What’s clear is there needs to be an industry-wide discussion and training led by groups like the PRCA rather than just more conversation saying ‘more needs to be done’ or ‘we need to get better’.
The best PR pros I have worked with are the ones who have learnt how to make “no” not seem like a negative. They’re able to understand the pressure a client is under from the wider business, and focus priorities without the dreaded over-servicing chat. They’re commercial but not heavyhanded. And it’s a tough balance to strike.
Combined with this – the best client relationships I’ve had are with those who appreciate priority setting and input like this, regularly. Those who are willing, and not afraid to talk about money and time. Sticking your head in the sand on either client or agency side only leads to problems later down the line. And yes, that comes with experience but these are also skills that can be taught or nurtured too.
Overservicing has become accepted as the norm for agencies but it shouldn’t be. You wouldn’t expect, nor would you receive, more than you paid for from your lawyer or accountant. So why are the servicing levels in our small corner of professional services so difficult to control, manage and regulate? It comes down to staff education, culture and support across agencies. Much of the issue is ingrained within agencies who are all too willing to take a factory-approach of hiring junior staff who are client-facing and not allowing for enough senior strategic support. These people move from agency to agency without mentoring or support so the cycle goes on. So less talk about the problem please and more focus on the answer. This isn’t an issue that can be solved by one agency or person and won’t work unless the PR industry gets together to tackle the problem. Who is with me?
If you are interested in working together to tackle the industry-wide issue of overservicing, email Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about our PR and marketing services, visit our contact page.Sign up to our newsletter