The remit of PR agencies has exploded in recent years, moving from traditional media relations, stakeholder and reputation management to encompass social media and community management, production of content, influencer, talent and even event management.

In some ways the PR agency is a one-stop shop for clients’ needs that can’t easily be placed elsewhere, such as with the creative or media agencies where scope is far more clearly defined.

Our database, which spans 20 years and more than 25,000 client-agency evaluations across all disciplines, globally, reflects this less-defined scope and the less aspirational budgets associated with PR.

ROI from PR has been seen as the silent long game, underpinning the brand voice and purpose to ensure campaigns are successful. But as the rules change, PR agencies are increasingly at the table with creative, media and digital at campaign kick-off.

Increasingly at Aprais we are evaluating relationships with PR agencies and we see demand for this growing as ROI becomes more measurable, and perhaps more pertinently important to measure.

What our data does show is that of the seven behaviours we study – accountability, challenge, communication, functional, goals, trust and resilience – PR as a discipline scores below other agency service types across most of the behaviours. As indicated in the chart, resilience (with a score of 70.3), in particular, reveals an opportunity for PR agencies to improve their scores relative to other services.


Opportunity to improve

To understand where there may be opportunities for PR agencies to close the gap on the best-in-class, we compare the scores of the top and bottom 10% in our database as scored by clients.

As the chart below indicates, the widest behaviour gaps between the best and the rest are in accountability and resilience.

 PR_gap 2

Our data shows that stronger relationships lead to stronger and more productive business. With that in mind, here are five ways PR agencies can improve their relationships with their clients, and five ways clients can get the best out of their PR agencies.

For agencies

  1. Where the client has agencies working collaboratively across campaigns, be sure to have a presence at all-agency briefings alongside creative and media at kick-off stage.
  2. Know the brand’s audiences and their purchasing and information choices.
  3. Upskill on the metaverse.
  4. Offer strategies, expertise and creative ideas that deliver on the brief objective – and if you’d like to expand the brand’s thinking be clear that what you’re sharing falls outside objectives.
  5. Feed back to the client if briefs aren’t clear and share strategies and examples from other brands you feel are performing well.

For clients

  1. Understand that within brand agency structure, PR is playing a bigger role and needs to be treated and rewarded accordingly.
  2. Clearly define ‘swim lanes’ across inter-agency teams to ensure they all know their roles and responsibilities.
  3. Put your PR agency at the table with other agencies and make sure they know they’re an integral part of the team.
  4. Utilise the flexibility of PR agencies but avoid grey areas that can lead to work being lost, duplicated or coming down to the wire.
  5. Provide clear briefs but be open to the agency’s ideas and thinking to avoid becoming restrictive.

Keeley Lane is head of network development at Aprais.