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Listen! It’s one of the keys to a successful relationship.

Back in the days before smartphones and tablets and Twitter (oh my), I would depend on the good old fashioned printed newspaper for much of my daily dose of current events. One of the columns I used to frequently give a skim for a little entertainment was Dear Abby. For more than a half-century, she has been providing “uncommon common sense” advice. In reading Ms. Abigail’s posts, a somewhat common theme is that through a little better listening, relationships could be built a lot stronger.

The same holds true when it comes to the client/agency relationship. Long-term relationships in this industry seem quite rare; in fact, Forbes reports the average to be just 3 years, which is down from 8.5 years as experienced in the 1980s*. Relationships come to a close for a variety of reasons, but at the root is often an issue with listening and understanding between the two parties. From an agency perspective, the client is depending on you to serve as its voice to the target audience. And like a game of whisper down the lane at a rock concert, if the agency is unable to listen carefully to understand the client and the client’s core communication objectives, the message will not properly reach the final target. The same holds true if the client is unwilling to listen and trust in the agency’s expertise.

Making the relationship more complicated is the fact that advertising communications is no longer a one-way street. In the age of social media, advertising has shifted from a carefully crafted monolog to a complex dialog discussed on a variety of forums. An agency hired to oversee social media efforts must earn the client’s trust to listen to and promptly engage with the target audiences without the need for hand-holding and layers of approvals from the client. Having a complete understanding of the client’s communication objectives will enable the agency to engage with greater strategy and fluidity.

With a track record of long-standing relationships, including our first client Lutron, whom we have held since 1993, and OKI Data, whom we’ve held for 15 years, Domus feels that an agency’s ability to listen is paramount. Thank you for reading. In a Dear Abby fashion, feel free to share with us your struggles, and we’ll be happy to listen.

Aaron Shute is a Senior Account Manager at Domus, Inc., a marketing communications agency based in Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://www.domusinc.com. For new business inquiries, please contact CEO and founder of Domus, Inc. Betty Tuppeny at betty.tuppeny@domusinc.com or 215-772-2805.

*Forbes.com: The Kardashian Effect: The Short-Lived Client-Agency Romance, 2/29/12

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