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Public relations agencies are always looking for new clients.  Early in my career, I heard a colleague whom I respect say, “All current clients will one day be former clients.”  Sort of like death and taxes, I guess.

It can be tough when clients end their agency relationships because we often become friends with our clients.  And changes occur sometimes despite the agency doing outstanding, even award-winning work.

So what makes a good client?

David C. Baker, author of   Managing (Right) for the First Time, and Financial Management of a Marketing Firm, spoke at the recent Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) meetings.

He said agencies should ask their prospects these questions – and get the answers before deciding to move forward in the new business process:

  • What scares you about our possible engagement?
  • Who else are you talking to?
  • Can we include your highest level of decision-maker who is on board with this?

Baker also provided three rules he said he would never violate:

  • The client must be between four and 20 percent of the agency’s billings.
  • The client is not spending his or her own money but rather managing a budget.
  • The client must have direct access to the top decision-maker.

All good in theory.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio


  1. Scott, great blog post and I do agree. Budget is always a priority (and 4%-20% is a good rule of thumb). Our minimums are generally at around 6% of revenue. But even more important is respect and having access to key decision makers. All the best, David

  2. We had a good (no make it excellent) client who did the following things:
    1 Signed a retainer contract from day one that has no end date, i.e. automatic renewal unless terminated.
    2 Did not harp on less than stellar results or efforts but was generous on praises for outstanding work. Even gave US$500 cash vouchers for such efforts!
    3 Respect us for our professionalism, implicit trust in what we do despite the fact the contact person was thousand of miles away and we had no monthly face-to-face meetings.

    However, it still boils down to the individual you are dealing with on the client side, not the company. We were fortunate to have dealt with this fantastic lady on the Marriott International account for more than 17 years. Now in retirement, today, she still remains a close and warm friend.

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