This aspect of the job can sometimes be tricky, but by following these six steps, you’ll be on your way to public relations success
Get to Know Your Client Very Well
All relationships are better when the individuals in the relationship take the time to know one another. Learn the client’s interests. Let them know some of your interests. You will likely spend many hours with the client during the project, so being relatable will help in the long run. The fact that they like food trucks, exotic cars, or fell in love with the Houston Oilers in 1988, is information you should know. Think about how you would like to be treated and just do the same. It also shows that this is just not a financial relationship.
Ask a Ton of Questions
When we ask questions, we understand situations and businesses better. Make the time to ask your client how they feel and how they think, and let them share their observations regarding the progress of the project and your performance. Ask them what their competition or people that they look up to are doing, and see if you can incorporate some of those ideas into what you are advising them on. The more ammo you have the better, plus it allows the client to feel as though they are helping and you are taking their feedback.
Manage Your Client’s Expectations
Your clients will be new to many aspects of PR and Marketing, and so they may have unrealistic expectations—that’s why they hired you. Now don’t get me wrong, many clients will think they know a lot about PR and marketing, but when you expose them to new or different ways, they now think you will be able to part the Red Sea or walk on water. This is especially true for timelines and qualitative aspects of certain campaigns. So at the beginning of the project, set realistic timelines. You will want to add some “cushion” in the schedule, so you still have a good chance of delivering what you promised on time. A client may think only 10 new social media followers in a month is not a lot, but when you let them know that those 10 followers have over 500,000 followers and have shared your content to their followers, it means so much more. Show your clients examples of existing projects so you are all on the same page about how long or short it might take to get the results, but let them know that this has worked before and to trust you.
Be a Server, Not a Servant
Often clients will ask you to do a task or create a campaign a certain way. Remember, the reason they hired you is because you are more of an expert in the field than they are. This does not mean that the client will not think they know just as much as you. So you must always remember you are serving the client’s needs and pushing them to the goals they want, even if it goes against some of their thoughts on the matter. What they initially ask for or suggest might not make much of an impact to the consumers or the individuals they are trying to reach. When you act as a Server, you have the best interest of the client in mind. This is an attitude that will come back to bless you again and again. They need you to SERVE them and do what is best and not just be a servant to what they think is best!
Be Willing to Say No
In many cases, clients ask us to do things beyond our capabilities, or anyone’s capabilities for that matter. When these new requests are outside the contract agreement, don’t be afraid to say, “This is not a part of our agreement that we set at the beginning.” Yes, you have another client that is on the news, and is a guest speaker in 40 shows a year. Then you have a new client who thinks they will be doing the same in just 2 weeks. Let them know the other client has years of media training and has been working with you for years. Tell the new client, “don’t worry, we will get you there, it just takes times and we must set the correct foundation first.” Take time to understand both the client’s reason for asking as well as your ability to deliver. Don’t automatically say “yes” or “The customer is always right,” because that client will be someone else’s client, because you could not deliver.
Be Willing to Say Yes
Be thankful for the opportunity the client offers you. Say “yes” to the jobs that are within your capability, but will require you to work a little harder than usual. The client will be grateful, and show that you can overcome obstacles to get the results you promised. The more work you do on the client’s behalf, the more valuable you become, and ultimately the more they will talk about what their PR firm did for them. You know the systems, the audience, and the culture. Have confidence in yourself, the client chose you for a reason. Now, go above and beyond!
By Rodney Waites, @thefourhornsman