What The Rom Com Teaches Us About A Great Agency Relationship

At MPRM Communications, we are privileged to work with some amazing storytellers, from independent filmmakers to entrepreneurs who set out to change the world. But just like the proverbial shoemaker’s children who go without shoes, they often need help in crafting their own stories. Because it is our business, we are also keen observers of other practitioners of the art of storytelling, whether in service of an issue, business, promotion or simply to entertain. What we plan to undertake here is a weekly look at the different ways storytelling can be used from transporting audiences to motivating change to building a business or creating awareness.

Minus dramatic make-ups and break-ups, there is a lot to be learned from romantic comedies when it comes to choosing a public relations agency, or for that matter any service provider, wisely. Unlike dating, where blind dates are often suspect, in a business situation referrals are the best means of identifying a possible partner. But don’t be Clueless about the source of your referrals. There are digital analogies to dating apps, LinkedIn and business networking apps like Alignable to name a few, but they are probably more suited to business development than seeking out an agency partner.

The first date is all about determining whether there are commonalities between the two parties. Unlike Bridget Jones’ Diary, being aware of your needs helps. Does the agency understand your business? Do they have relevant experience? Do you like the people on your account team? Yes chemistry is an important part of the decision making process because you’re going to have to work closely with the team over a considerable amount of time. But don’t be put off by appearances: as we learned with Legally Blonde, they can be deceiving.

Communication, generally the cause of all those dramatic make-up, break-ups and disconnects in the movies — think Love Actually or You’ve Got Mail — is critical to the success of an agency relationship. A transparent two-way dialog where both parties are great at sharing information, the bad with the good, can make all the difference in the outcome of a campaign, not to mention a relationship. Working in a vacuum is as bad for business as emotional distancing is for love.

It’s important that both parties are clear about the goals and deliverables of the campaign. Just like a couple whose life goals are on different paths, He’s Just Not That Into You, for example, it is critical that both agency and client are on the same page in order to achieve measurable results.

Just like in any relationship, there will be bumps along the road, hopefully not as challenging as The Big Sick or Wall-E’s pursuit of Eve. This is particularly true with public relations because so much of what we do is earned media coverage as opposed to paid. While we can control the messaging to a large extent through content creation, exclusive placements and care in who we’re working with in the media, we are often working through a third party — the media — to reach the target audience and they are writing or producing the final content. It’s important to be strategic about communication, unlike The Best Man who had to deal with sharing too much information. Misunderstanding about how the media works or unrealistic expectations about what to expect can be just as devastating to a client-agency relationship as they can to a romance.

We love romantic comedies for their happy endings. We love it when friends finally realize that they are right for each other, like When Harry Met Sally. In a perfect world we would want everyone asking us for what our clients “are having.”