Thursday, June 02, 2005

Should You Be A Reference?

You love your PR team.

They are engaged. Strategic. Proactive. Adept and "spot-on" in terms of execution, too. The ink is flowing, in all the right places.

And then it happens.

You get a call from one of your agency's business prospects.


They want to know about YOUR team. What do you do?

For some clients, especially the happiest ones, this situation presents a small quandary. They love their PR team and know, at some level, that the services they enjoy depend on this squad's bandwidth. If the agency crew get busier with additional clients, that must mean less time for them! So while they love their PR team, and want their agency to be successful, these clients also don't want to sacrifice an iota of the service levels.

This is perfectly understandable. Even if you've already been a good reference for your agency (or other service vendor), you've no doubt felt that twinge of "jealousy."

But here's the thing: you should not only agree to be an agency reference, you should proactively offer to do so - especially if you're happy, but even if you're not-so-happy.

Huh??

It makes perfect sense; bear with me. Here's how it works at your PR firm:

Behind the scenes, your dedicated Account Manager is busting their butt to impress you so that you will say something nice about them to their agency VP or principal. That's how careers are cultivated. You should do this as appropriate, just to be nice. If you're nice to your AM, they'll work hard for you.

But if compliments about your AM internally are helpful in their career cultivation, your active referenceability for the Agency is like Miracle-Gro in terms of how it will affect your own account services. Being a reference, now that's a selfish act!

References are golden. No agency wants to lose a reference. When you're asking your account team for ever-higher levels of service, invariably your AM will complain to a higher-up at the agency... and trust me, that VP will then say, "Yeah, I hear you, but they are such a great reference, I'm inclined to give them more than they're paying for..."

See what I mean when I suggest that being a reference is in the client's best interest? Yes, your advocacy might mean your account team gets busier, but, they won't forget that their firm's growing success depends on your kind words. And so, when it's 6pm and they are desperate to go home, your AM will still take the time to make one last call, just one more pitch, on your behalf.

Help your agency grow. Your PR program will only benefit. It's a quid pro quo thang.

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