Business PR Strategy

Conscious Uncoupling – Agency & Client

Posted by Deborah | August 18th, 2014 | No responses

When Paltrow and Martin coined the phrase conscious uncoupling, they did so to capture the sense they were amicably letting go of their marital tie. Of course, if there’s ever going to be a split – of marriage, minds or money – we all hope it will be done in a way that causes least upheaval and disappointment.

So what about in the world of agency and client?

Can we apply it there too?

Is it possible for both parties to respectfully part from their current agreement without a war of words and with each one able to keep head held high? Well, certainly you’d like to think so. There are all sorts of reasons that a retained arrangement might come to an end, but these are just some of the more likely:

  • Budgets have tightened and the client feels able to resource in house, or in any case, eager to take a financially-restraining decision for the time being
  • A new marketing / comms manager / CEO is shipped in, & with it comes a relationship with that person’s former appointed agency
  • The business is shifting and decides it needs new marketing methodology better served by someone / something different (this could be utilising a call centre or placing emphasis with a specialist trade agency)
  • The end of an era because a project has achieved its immediate goal

In all these scenarios, there’s every reason to believe that both sides would walk away to their respective camps feeling unharmed by the former union – and in some cases even hopeful that a ‘recoupling’ may occur again at such time as project, budget or personnel makes it viable.

The worst kind of uncoupling however, is when one or other party feels that the whole scenario ‘just isn’t working’.  That’s not to say that only the client stands a chance of feeling aggrieved.

Yes, it may be them that chooses to part company – owing to personality issues, lack of promised results, frustration about rising of fees, poor communication of status.

But, it could just as easily be the agency or consultant. They may come to feel – they’re over servicing for the fee paid, that the client’s business model just doesn’t allow for the results they require, that the client is rude, unhelpful or disrespectful…or that fees are always paid late.

No-one is ever suggesting you should avoid uncoupling if you feel it’s the right move. In fact, in certain cases I’ve seen, it can work even better and create a newfound respect for an adhoc working platform, or allow for new work to be picked up in that sector but with the benefit of hindsight experience!

Here’s my top tips for uncoupling in the best way possible:

  • Reflect on what written or verbal agreements or objectives were entered into from the outset
  • Ensure you’re sticking to the letter of the law in terms of who owns what collateral etc
  • Agree an uncoupling timeline and an appropriate handover
  • Avoid all temptation to bad mouth or demonise, either via online or in person networking
  • Learn the lesson, pick the plus points, and plough forward with ever more purposeful momentum.
  • Regret and anger will only paralyse the next stage of your journey!

*for further PR advice or questions about how my consultancy service works, email me at



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