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How to Make the Client-Agency Model and Relationship Work

By Glenn Rossman


I’ve been at the PR game longer than I care to admit, and I’ve had experience on both sides of the aisle – as a client working with PR agencies and at PR agencies working with clients.


I like to keep things simple and as a result I’ve found that it benefits me, on either side of the aisle, to think of the relationship in terms of what I describe as the “Window-In, Window-Out” model, and which I believe is the key to making the client-agency relationship and model work for both sides.

Though we meet in the middle when we’re working together, as client and agency representative(s) we each represent all the others behind our respective windows. Our positions in the pecking order doesn’t matter if we play our roles properly – the client could be the head of PR, PR manager or the CEO, while the agency rep could be the head of the firm or a worker-bee.

The client role

First, let’s explore the client’s role in making the client-agency relationship work effectively. As your PR agency, we need a window into your business, your organization, your politics, your industry, your competition. Yes, we may be familiar with all of those, but we are not the experts. We need you to guide us – steer us through the minefields, connect us with the right people and do whatever it takes to keep us on course, so we can be effective at helping advance your business objectives. I know from firsthand experience that this can mean a lot of blocking and tackling that is not always easy or pleasant. But in that role, you as the client representative are the guiding light for the agency inside your company. Help us to help you. Because when all is said and done, usually the better the client rep, the better the agency performs.

The agency role

Now, the agency role is to serve as the client’s window out – in particular, to media, analysts and other external stakeholders. To serve you well, we should have extensive and solid relationships with key media, analysts and influencers in your industry and sphere of influence. We must moreover be expert in helping you break through the noise and navigate the clutter so that writers and analysts will be receptive to hearing and propagating your company’s message/s. Yes, that means steering you away from or through the minefields, connecting you with the right people and doing whatever it takes to keep things on course to advance your business objectives.

How to make it work

While the model itself is simple, implementing it in the real world can be less so. Let’s face it, there are a lot of variables in play behind those client and agency windows – variables which at times may fog up the glass, mess with the opening mechanism and otherwise hinder our ability to provide the other with the required visibility. But, so long as we understand our roles and keep course-correcting so that we fulfill our obligations to each other – keeping our windows clean and transparent, the mechanisms maintained and constantly pointing out to each other exactly which window/s to look through and at what – then the client-agency model works splendidly and the relationship will flourish and grow to the benefit of all involved.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have windows that need work.

Do you want to peek in the window at what Waters Agency has to offer? Drop us an email today.


About the author


Senior PR Consultant, Glenn Rossman has spent 30+ years helping build client company profiles that are differentiated from competitors and support sales/business objectives. His experience spans IBM and HP as well as startup companies, and his knowledge extends across a broad array of technology including hardware, software (open source, security, cloud, SaaS), as well as channel relations.

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