Lasting Client Relationships Thrive on Shared Values, Partnership

November 18, 2020

Our Partners

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Jill Allread, APR

CEO

Jill Allread leads PCI and provides executive counsels to a wide variety of organizations and individuals to enhance their brands, strategies and reputations.

An agency owner for more than 20 years, Jill also draws upon her experience as a daily newspaper reporter and editor when helping clients more effectively tell their story through strategic communications and planning.

A nationally recognized crisis management counselor in the areas of healthcare, nonprofit, conservation, business and associations, she also advises clients in public affairs strategies, building on her past experience as Director of Public Affairs and Public Relations for Chicago Zoological Society.

Relationships can be tricky. Stories of why agency-client relationships wane or end are too common. Breakups often feature tales of unmet expectations, miscommunications, or personnel or leadership changes resulting in switching agencies to just “try something new.”

Often underrated are the benefits of building and maintaining an enduring client-agency relationship that thrives on meeting new challenges, innovating with deep experience and subject knowledge, and, shared values. An example we are celebrating is this year’s 25th anniversary of PCI’s client relationship with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC).

Our relationship with AFC has evolved and endured through four different AFC CEOs; several staff changes on both client and agency teams; and countless challenges for which collaboratives communication strategies and campaigns proved winners. In fact, several programs with AFC earned PR-industry awards due to teamwork. What’s more satisfying than awards are the fundraising success, the policy wins, the HIV prevention program campaigns, and the AFC safety net helping thousands of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.

This month, AFC celebrates 35 years of service with a virtual gala. CEO John Peller and his team of 115 dedicated staff members have much to celebrate. And PCI celebrates not only the AFC successes, but our 25-year relationship as client-agency.

Let me share from lessons learned what contributes to maintaining a long-lasting client-agency relationship:

Keep conversations and brainstorming fresh. Study trends, follow proposed policies that may create threats or opportunities and proactively plan.

Focus every day on the client’s success, and their reputation and brand. PR is an investment that can deliver critical ROI if supported by creative planning and execution.

Keep evolving. Since first hired to help AFC create a plan for its 10th anniversary, PCI has expanded the services we provide including digital strategies, policy advocacy and education, training, fundraising and event support, and issues management. Always offer more.

Ask questions and listen. Really listen. Don’t assume because you’ve worked together so long that you know everything you need to in order to move the client’s communication efforts forward and get results. Ask questions like, “What concerns you most in the months ahead?” “What is exciting for your organization?” “What does success mean to you for this program or campaign?” And listen carefully to inform effective solutions.

Build trust and respect. PCI team members request to work on AFC’s programs. The work and mission are meaningful, and the relationship between our teams is collaborative and appreciative – a positive for both client and agency.

Tap the power of making an emotional investment in the client’s mission. When I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in Indiana in the mid-1980s, we covered the tribulations of Kokomo, IN, middle schooler Ryan White, a young man with hemophilia, who contracted AIDS from contaminate factor VIII he needed to stay alive. Because he developed AIDS, his school tried to deny him attendance. A court finally ruled Ryan could attend, and his story attracted national attention about the need to understand HIV/AIDS and to help those affected. It also spurred in 1990 passage of the Ryan White CARE Act, which continues supporting victims and critical programs like those provided by AFC.

Since then, I’ve been personally and professionally passionate about equity of healthcare and social support for people affected by the disease. It is personal to me, as well as PCI team members. Our team is not only well versed in HIV/AIDS issues and related social and health equity, we have become advocates for AFC and its work.

Deliver on the promise, not just a written contract, but your partnership. PR is a relationship business. That means bring your passion, creativity and energy every day to your client programs.

We are so proud of the accomplishments of AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and congratulate their team for saving and improving so many lives in its 35 years. The work is not over and there are challenges ahead. PCI feels privileged to continue working for – and beside – our client as they change; we change; and we manage challenge and change together.

Jill Allread, APR, CEO

Jill Allread leads PCI and provides executive counsels to a wide variety of organizations and individuals to enhance their brands, strategies and reputations.

An agency owner for more than 20 years, Jill also draws upon her experience as a daily newspaper reporter and editor when helping clients more effectively tell their story through strategic communications and planning.

A nationally recognized crisis management counselor in the areas of healthcare, nonprofit, conservation, business and associations, she also advises clients in public affairs strategies, building on her past experience as Director of Public Affairs and Public Relations for Chicago Zoological Society.