Client relations is tricky business for PR professionals. “The customer is always right,” works just fine in retail, but it is a recipe for disaster in PR. Your clients come to you to take advantage of your broad experience and expertise, so it doesn’t make much sense to let them dictate every move, but they are still customers so you have to find a way to keep them happy. Here are a few key tips for building healthy, successful, and long-term relationships.
Don’t Accept Clients That Aren’t a Good Match
The best way to end a bad relationship is by not starting it in the first place. I know that turning down business is painful, but in the long run, you are far better off not agreeing to work with a client that isn’t a good fit. Before you sign the SOW, find out if your strategy and way of working aligns with what the client is looking for. Talk about communication styles and expectations. If they’ve had other agencies, find out what worked well and what didn’t. Finally, make sure that you have the capacity, skills, and experience to deliver what the client wants.
Focus on Customer Success
These days it isn’t enough to meet the client’s output expectations (number of press releases, media mentions, guest blogs, etc.), you must also be sure that you are helping them drive toward business objectives and be able to prove it. This means that at the outset you need to have a conversation about how the PR investment will be measured. Will success mean more web traffic, increased lead conversions, shorter sales cycles, or some other metric?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
There are three key areas of communication that are essential for a good relationship. Most agencies are only really good at the first one:
- Communicate the status of campaigns, outreach, and other activities
- Communicate about the measurable results of those activities in terms of the client’s goals
- Communicate about the status of the relationship
The last one can be difficult, but if you don’t ask, “How are we doing?” from time to time, you might only find out about a problem when a client tells you goodbye.
Be Your Client’s Eyes and Ears
Every PR agency reports to a client when they pick up a media mention, but too few take media monitoring to the next level. The best agencies work with clients to formulate and effective PR strategy by monitoring the entire landscape. What’s being said about the competition? What relevant conversations are taking place without the voice of the client? Where is the market heading? Who are the thought leaders?
With the right approach, you can become more than outsourced press release writers for your clients. You can become a valuable strategic partner. Those are the types of relationships that last.