I am a big fan of David Henderson and look forward to his blog posts. He wrote a piece recently that stimulated some strong discussion here at AHA and pretty much everywhere I have brought it up. With the headline The Very Broken PR Agency Model, you know right away that David is going to touch some nerves. In his post, he says that the agency business is singularly about billable hours and that the focus of most PR agencies isn’t on the work or the client.
I think he has some valid points and I strongly believe that as an industry, PR is in a time of huge change and the world we live in is now different. Not everyone is embracing this evolution and I think that some agencies are going to suffer because of it. David does admit that there are exceptions and that there are some generally smaller to mid-sized PR shops that “are flourishing because they are darn good at what they do.” He also says that is “the exception, unfortunately, in a large industry dominated by the money hungry big agencies.”
I can’t speak to his points about the big agencies because AHA isn’t one and we have never had the ambition to be much bigger than we are. However, David’s post sparked a conversation here at AHA about what makes us a good agency and what we could be doing differently or better.
As a boutique agency, it’s all about our clients and our crew. When we bring someone onto the AHA crew, our focus is on their skill set, expertise, their character and personality. Will they fit in with our culture; will they mesh with our crew? One of the key things I learned about culture and building a strong business that delivers to clients, I got from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It all starts with building a great culture and an exceptional team.
I just had a conversation with our Toronto-based account executive/writer Lori. We have a client that has an event in Toronto in late August and the date of the event falls on the morning of the first day of Lori’s vacation. Without any prompting, Lori immediately went into client service mode and started adjusting her vacation schedule so she could be at the event and not inconvenience or take away from her family’s time together. AHA’s clients matter to Lori as much as they matter to us. On top of being a skilled communications professional, she’s a part of the team and she participates and contributes. This has nothing to do with winning awards for AHA or billable time. It’s about delivering great work, great service and great results to our clients. I strongly believe that with our business model, our approach to client service and providing communications expertise from exceptional people – we’re in the right place at the right time to deliver excellence to our clients.
We’ve always said it’s not about us; it’s about our clients.