You may be a media maven or a social superstar, an astute strategist or a canny writer, but in the PR agency world, this means little if the client isn’t happy.
I’ve been a PR consultant as well as a client, so I’ve seen both sides of the fence. I know what it’s like to operate on the outside, trying to read the tea leaves to figure out what’s going on in my client’s world. And, as an in-house PR manager, I’ve also experienced the frustration of my inherited PR agency not completely being on the same page as me (I corrected that quickly).
Walking in your client’s—or your prospect’s shoes—is an essential skill for any PR practitioner. It’s not something you can learn in a book. It’s a state of mind, a commitment.
It’s up to each of us to invest time every day to nurture our client and prospect relationships—to understand their universes, challenges, and goals—so that we can contribute to their success. In March, my colleague Beth Monaghan wrote that good PR is the careful balance of confidence and empathy
, and I believe this applies to client service, too.
There are many ways to make your client love you (and, quite frankly, vice versa). These are my cardinal rules:
Be friendly, accessible, and likeable (much like Jackie O
). Don’t just get down to business. Take a moment to ask your client how his or her weekend was. And don’t hide behind email; pick up the phone. Let your client hear your voice and get to know you.
Understand your client’s schedule. Be empathetic to potential corporate politics and how they may impact your client’s role—and mood.
Always convey your passion for your craft, the client’s industry, and the quest for success.
Delivering on deadline and appreciating how your work fits into your client’s deliverables is paramount.
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. How does the organization sell? What obstacles does it encounter? When is the next board meeting? How are leads generated? How can PR help the sales organization?
You were hired for your expert counsel, so don’t be a wallflower in meetings. Be confident, speak up, add value, and contribute.
Be a listener.
Listen for the facts that are stated and also for those that may be inferred. Your client might be saying one thing but implying something else. Listen and interpret.
Don’t set yourself or your client up for disappointment if you honestly believe a tactic won’t work.
Think ahead. What’s next? What information should your arm your client with so he or she walks into the next meeting prepared?
The status quo is never enough. Your client didn’t hire you to just be a “yes” person. Challenge the status quo with fresh thinking and creative ideas. Push back when needed. You’ll be respected for it.
Samantha McGarry is a vice president at PR and social content agency InkHouse. You can follow her on Twitter @samanthamcgarry. A version of this story first appeared on the InkHouse blog.