Why self-interest is hurting client service for pan-European clients and how Tyto is pushing back against this

Economists, like Adam Smith, believe that the pursuit of self-interest is a good thing. That the cumulative impact of everyone pursuing self-interest leads to the most efficient use of resources and the best outcome for society overall.

It’s open to debate if the widespread pursuit of self-interest has worked on a societal level, but one area that it is failing is in the way European PR agency networks operate and how it doesn’t meet the demands of today’s modern European PR buyer. A buyer that must increasingly manage a shrinking budget to deliver the maximum results across a highly complex multilingual region, all while being able to adapt and pivot at the drop of the hat.

European PR agency networks take two forms.   

First, you have branded wholly owned networks that are all part of the same ownership group, but that are comprised of multiple national operating subsidiaries each with their own boss with their own financial targets to hit. Edelman, Weber Shandwick, BCW and Fleishman Hillard are four of the big ones.

Second, you have curated networks comprising independent self-governing agencies that have been built by a hub agency or by a client. Like the wholly owned networks, the bosses of the different country agencies have their own financial targets to hit.

The common illusion of both network models is that they are client centric when in fact, they are primarily driven by the self-interest of the different agencies and agency subsidiaries in the network and the financial objectives their bosses are driven by.

These self-interested models are the enemies of true client service and here’s three common scenarios where this is revealed:

First, these traditional self-interested networks inhibit flexibility. If you need to move some of your budget from one focus country to another, or you need to support a launch in a new country previously not covered by your scope by reallocating budget, then you as a client, will have a fight on your hands. The cogs of financial self-interest across the network clog up and stifle flexibility because no one wants to give up their share of your budget pie even if it is the right thing to do for your business’s success. This is the first example of where self-interest corrupts a client service ethos.

Second, these traditional self-interested models distort strategic thinking. If you have an international European programme that is managed out of the UK, take a wild guess which country they will suggest putting the most of your budget? If you have different countries leads motivated by financial self-interest, how do you ensure budget is being allocated based upon your business priorities rather than self-interested internal agency network priorities. The answer is that it is difficult to do when self-interest is at play. This is the second example of where self-interest corrupts a client service ethos.

Finally, these self-interested models fracture how we think and feel about a client relationship. When your European agency network values you according to how much you spend in each country, rather than how much you spend overall, you receive a qualitatively different client experience. The reason this happens is because as a client you might sign one contract for a vast amount of money, but as soon as the contract is signed and your budget is carved up among the different country teams the service you receive, like your budget, is fractured into smaller pieces.

This broken self-interested model drove Tyto to invent its PRWithoutBorders model for multi-country pan-European PR and communications. In Tyto’s borderless model we service clients through a multi-national team working as one across borders in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands. We work in one single structure to represent and serve our clients without any competing self-interests.  

If you need to move budget around to support new priorities, we will flex to meet your needs. We will provide you with an impartial view of how you should allocate budget without any bias to a particular country. And we will deliver activities for you using the most appropriate team from across Europe irrespective of where that resource is located.

European clients have had enough. They have enough challenges to deal with, without battling with their own agency networks. We all need to be focused on the bigger picture, minus the country self-interest, so that we can ensure true uncorrupted client service and help our clients to adapt, transform and grow.