Why client/agency relationships are becoming increasingly important in the mobile era

The importance of a solid client/agency relationship

— George West 

Achieving a healthy work-life balance has never been an easy feat for professionals working in communications agencies. Often you are managing a multitude of clients, each with different goals and expectations, and in a competitive industry, there is undoubtedly a fear of saying no.

As the growth of mobile technologies make work increasingly accessible – think remote access to company servers and emails via mobile phones – there are rising expectations on comms professionals to provide endless availability to their clients.

A recent research by the University of West England showed that better access to free Wi-Fi on trains means people are spending more time working than ever before, and they called for a rethink of what is ‘in-’ and ‘out-of-office’ time.

It is easy for agencies – particularly when chasing multiple deadlines at 8pm on a Friday – to lament ‘unfair’ or ‘over-ambitious’ demands of clients, but the reality is that in-house communicators are faced with their own significant challenges in the mobile era.

Our industry has always been defined by its unpredictability – we are trying to protect and enhance the image of brands around whatever tomorrow’s news story might be. The problem we have today of course is that there is no such thing as tomorrow. News and commentary is constant, and reputations can be won and lost quite literally at the twitch of a finger.

In-house communicators are directly in the firing line of this trend. The image of the company is firmly in their hands, but with little indication of when it could explode, it is very difficult to put it down for any extended time. The result is a significant blurring of boundaries between their work and home life, and increased pressure on their agencies.

Down-time is of-course critical for communications professionals. We are all human, and there is a need to be well rested and refreshed to handle the complex challenges of multiple clients whilst remaining creative in the face of media trends. For this reason, the relationship between a client and agency is becoming more and more crucial.

The reality is that as working patterns get more and more erratic, the more mobile our lives become – and it might not be all bad. It could allow us to be more flexible in our individual lives. But however this plays out in the future, we need to start understanding the needs of our clients and their own work/life balances.

The main goal of an agency of course is to make it easier for clients to meet their own personal objectives. By having a deeper insight into their day-to-day challenges, we can not only tailor work and provide a better level of service, but also help the client understand their own resources, so they can utilise them in the best possible way. For example, the client may need his or her agency to cover press office duties at a specific time to allow them to enjoy some time with family. At the same time, the agency can be transparent on what is (and is not) achievable for them, and provide better counsel on how to approach certain tasks.  

An open, trusting client/agency relationship will be crucial in protecting work life balances and getting the most out of accounts in the mobile era.