Why client relationships without trust are doomed to failure

April 26, 2012 by Jonathan Hemus

The April issue of CorpComms magazine includes fascinating research about the level of trust between PR agencies and their clients.  The headline finding is that whilst over half of agencies believe they have an open and honest relationship with their clients, just 29% of in-house directors trust their agencies “absolutely”.

I believe that in life – whether personal or professional – relationships will only succeed if there is mutual trust and respect.  How can I protect my client’s reputation if we don’t have total honesty when managing a crisis?  Why would my client listen to my advice if they can’t be sure that my actions and counsel are guided by their best interests?

Insignia has the privilege of working with many senior businesspeople and it would be untenable to represent and advise them on reputation management if I didn’t trust and respect them.  Equally, I understand that the opportunity to offer communication counsel (and for that counsel to be acted upon) is based upon their trust in me and my consultancy.

Of course, trust and respect have to be earned, and this is a priority in the first few months of any new client relationship.  But unless this is achieved, the relationship will be purely transactional in nature and most likely doomed to long term failure.  It will certainly not lead to the best decision-making to build, manage and protect the organisation’s reputation.

Trust is a rare and precious commodity, but it is the essential ingredient for a successful relationship.  If you’re a client with a PR agency you don’t trust, look for another one: you cannot be making the most of your reputation.  If you’re a consultancy with a client you don’t trust, find a way of building that trust, or end the relationship.

Ultimately, I’d agree entirely with the un-named commentator in the article who said: “The relationship will only work and be of value to the client if we can have honest, open and trusting conversations.  This will not be a problem if the relationship is a genuine partnership based on mutual respect.  Without this, the relationship will be trying at best, downright demoralising at worst.  Life’s too short!”  (Well, I guess I would agree given that I was that un-named commentator!)

I’d be very interested to hear your views too.

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