PR Agency Account Management: From Adequate to Astonishing

by Kevin Foley | December 13, 2018

Public Relations


This is the first in a series of blogs authored by KEF Media founder and CEO Kevin Foley. A 36-year veteran of the public relations agency business, Kevin shares his experience and insights with agency account managers. You can reach him at

Think about your client, that person with whom you have regular contact, the one who critiques the work of your account team and signs off on your agency’s invoices.

He or she sits in a tough spot. Over here is your agency entrusted to deliver on the PR programming you successfully sold to the client. Over there is “the boss,” the person your client contact reports to, reviewing and evaluating how well or even if the public relations function is doing its job.

Now ask yourself, what does your client contact want from you and your agency?

The answer is many things. First, the client wants competence; communications professionals who know what they’re doing. Second, they want your agency’s work product delivered in a comprehensive, understandable way so they can answer the boss’s questions intelligently and completely. Third, the client wants a collaborator, a sounding board and, often, a confidant and even a friend.


Here’s the thing: all of the above is available from most any PR shop in town, which maybe explains why so much agency hopping takes place in our industry. Adequate is available everywhere. So, ask yourself again, what does your client really want?

If your client is ambitious, as most clients are, they want you to make them a rock star inside their organization. The client wants to show his or her boss the astonishing, not just the adequate.

Having visited scores of PR agencies over the years, I can tell immediately which ones routinely deliver the astonishing. You can sense the energy and the excitement in the halls, the account teams fully engaged and always thinking about how to go above and beyond. The account managers are inspirational, leading by example and sharing successes with the entire team. You hear “what if…” a lot in such places.

Then there are those delivering adequate. These offices are usually subdued, the account managers staying holed up in their offices while the account teams are involved with but not really committed to what the client wants, checking the clock while dutifully checking off boxes against the PR program’s to-do list. In these places you often hear “great idea, but…”

Can you guess which PR agency gets more assignments and more money from the client?

Yes, delivering the astonishing requires more thought, more research and more creativity, but aren’t these the things that make a PR career interesting, rewarding and even fun?

Here are some ways to get from adequate to astonishing:

  • Tell the client something he or she doesn’t know about his organization or industry.
  • Challenge every account team member to astonish you - and not in a bad way!
  • When brainstorming, don’t let yourself get hemmed in by arbitrary “project parameters.”
  • Determine what causes your client the most pain and figure out how you help relieve it.
  • Be your team’s toughest critic – is that the best (creative, writing, video, etc.) we can do for our client?

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