The public relations profession faces many challenges in these hardscrabble times. Clients are holding tight, cutting their public relations budgets or simply saying goodbye. Competitors swoop in, looking for hints of weakness in a client-agency relationship, sometimes followed by business consulting and marketing firms that promote their tool kits as a means of surviving, if not growing, in the recession. What steps can an agency take to ensure that clients are incredibly pleased with the work being done, the results generated on their behalf and the agency relationship?

Based on results from working through three previous recessions (some better than others!), I’ve come to realize that success in client service and retention requires a manic sense of urgency to deliver short-term results combined with a disciplined approach to creativity and long-range planning. Smart agencies provide clients with ideas that will be generating results six, nine and twelve months into the future. We call this “horizon management.” We want the client to envision us sailing together toward new and beneficial destinations.

Agencies can make this happen with an interactive team process. One approach is to hold regular meetings every Monday to update on all client activities. For long-term impact, use the meeting to brainstorm new ideas for each client on a rotating basis. Chose one client or two as the subjects for the next meeting. Have the team leader or account manager review background information in advance of the session, including client calendars, milestones, known events and activities, conference schedules, editorial calendars and focus editions.

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