Here at Decibel Blue, we have brilliant marketing minds turning the gears that make our business tick. One of our partners, Tyler Rathjen, was recently interviewed on the PRBI podcast to discuss creating and fostering successful relationships between agencies and their clients. Click here to listen and follow along with what Tyler has to say.
Joyce Scott– Hi everyone, welcome to the PRBI podcast series, “Chats with the Experts” with insights into communications trends and topics from around the world. PRBI is the Public Relations Boutiques International, a global network of PR agencies that are run by senior practitioners dedicated to strategic counselling, high impact results and personal service. And this podcast series is designed to provide practical information on the changing world of PR, how communications can be improved and enhanced and how practitioners and clients can engage to solve many of the new challenges of communication today. I’m Joyce Scott, the moderator, I am the head of Scott Public Relations, a boutique agency specializing in healthcare, insurance and technology, based in Los Angeles and serving companies worldwide. Our guest today is Tyler Rathjen with Decibel Blue, and Tyler I’ll let you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your agency.
Tyler Rathjen– Sounds great, thank you for having me. As Joyce said my name is Tyler Rathjen and our agency is located in Phoenix, Arizona. We specialize primarily in food, wellness and real estate working with a lot of multi-unit concepts on the consumer side of things. We also have an office in Denver as well with a team of about 15.
Joyce– Thank you. So, today, our topic is developing winning relationships between agencies and clients. We all long for that mutually productive relationship that is going to start out well and go for decades even in producing better and better results, but like marriages, partnerships are often challenging to achieve. So, we’d like to start out by asking your opinion: when should a company consider a relationship with a public relations or marketing agency?
Tyler– Sure. Well, I think that there are a couple different things that you need to take into consideration and one of the things we find most often is that it really comes down to capacity or bandwidth issues. So, a lot of times when we’re working with companies, they’re looking to expand their services and perhaps they don’t have the individuals internally to take on those tasks, whether it’s doing their social media or being able to write press releases or developing content. So, that’s generally a good time when you look for outside resources and an agency can be invaluable because they have a whole team that can essentially help you with support where bringing in perhaps one person doesn’t necessarily make sense. Another thing is really when they see their competitor’s names in the paper and they’re not there, so they are at a point where they realize that they need to do more to get their brand out into the market place and by hiring a PR agency they are acknowledging that they need the experts to come in and help them tell their story on a broader level.
Joyce– Do you sometimes find that companies are looking also for different perspectives, different skill sets maybe, that they may not have in-house?
Tyler– Certainly. Yeah, I think having that outside expertise is really important to have somebody with a fresh perspective who can come in and really take a hundred thousand foot view of what the organization is doing perhaps you know they have been doing things the same way for so long, they have the same team and resources in place where, you know, maybe it’s not producing the results that they really hope for. So, bringing in some outside consultants who have a new way of approaching things and have the expertise in their industry and being able to implement some new strategies to help them really be successful certainly brings a lot to the table.
Joyce– So, once a company has made a decision that they are going to be looking for a public relations agency, what should they look for? What are some of the criteria what are the ways to find the right partner?
Tyler– I think, first and foremost, an agency should be there to make your life easier. So, I think you’ll be able to trust your gut right away once you interact with them. Is this a right fit to help act as an outsourced communications or marketing department for you and being able to have that rapport with their team and knowing that you’re going to engage and interact with one another in a way that’s going to really be collaborative and produce results? You know, another thing, too, is making sure that you understand who that team is going to be. Ask them questions. Who is the senior person going to be that is active on your account? Are you getting the full force of a team that you would hope for from a PR agency? Really it comes down to making sure that they have the expertise and skill set within the vertical that you’re operating, and you really want to look for somebody who, again, can bring in that outside expertise but has the knowledge base more broadly working with a lot of different clients throughout the industry.
Joyce– We talked about chemistry as well. I also should point out in PRBI one of the characteristics of a boutique agency is that the staff is senior-level. What I have heard often from clients who have been disappointed in an agency relationship that one team came in and sold them and another team came in to do the work, usually much less senior, and they weren’t happy with that. They weren’t happy with the results and I think that’s one of the reasons why so many of the leaders of boutique agencies start their own companies because they continue to want to be involved in the account work, they continue to want to have a personal involvement and again, bringing in teams of people that are very seasoned and experienced on every account.
Tyler– Yeah, and that’s something that we definitely take into account in our agency is making sure that there isn’t that awkward handoff where you feel like you’re interacting with the agency partner senior person right away then they disappear after three months after you land the account. We are fortunate we have individuals who are passionate about their careers and want to be working with the client directly. Kind of a quick anecdote is, a number of years ago, we had a very large client that we were going in to pitch and we were going against all of the larger agencies, legacy agencies in town who had, you know, 50 employees and what not. We were the young startup, you know, hungry, but after we went through our pitch, we went in with who we were, we communicated to our team and we won the account. And the feedback that we got is we demonstrated that we wanted to do the work, we didn’t want to just land the account. So, I think that’s a really important perspective and I think you’ll be able to see through that when you’re meeting with an agency. And going through that, it’s important to identify whether it’s just more work for them or do they really feel like they can get passionate about your business and want to help you out and be an extension of your team and make sure that you’re being successful as well.
Joyce– When your success and the agency’s successes are one and the same.
Tyler– We have a lot of clients who have been with us for five, six, seven, almost ten years now and I think that’s a testament to that shared partnership mentality.
Joyce– And that’s something to look for when you’re looking for a public relations agency, too, is do they have these long-term relationships and partnerships with other clients which indicates obviously a high level of satisfaction.
Tyler– Yeah, exactly.
Check out Part II of Tyler’s discussion here.
Tyler is a Partner at Decibel Blue. He is a recent graduate of Scottsdale Leadership’s prestigious Class 33 and has previously sat on the board of the Phoenix Suns 88 Charities as Executive Committee chairperson (or “Big Gorilla”). He is also an active member of the Key Executive Forum for PR Boutiques International, a global collaborative network of public relations agencies. Tyler is passionate about supporting education-related causes since his wife, Victoria, has been a public school teacher for many years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.