PR veteran Arthur Solomon’s recent post about challenging basic public relations “rules” and other industry tenets
really struck a chord with me.
The most insightful point may have been this one: “Good work is not a sure way of receiving client approval. The best way to ensure a good review is to make the client look good.”
That’s insightful, because doing good work and making the client look good are both desirable, but they are not necessarily one and the same. Here’s my best advice for achieving one through the other.
Don’t be selfish.
Selfish thinking is really short-term thinking. Agency professionals are trained to expand accounts and always have an eye out for additional assignments within the company. That’s natural, but there are times when the obligation to offer honest counsel may conflict with the agency goals of growth and profitability. A good long-term rule is to ask yourself what is truly best for the client. Nine times out of 10, that’s also what’s best for the long-term agency relationship.
There are almost always pain points that fall outside the agency’s scope of work. Offering solutions, particularly when they relate to navigating corporate politics or enhancing the stature of corporate communications within the organization, are natural ways to get your client promoted. Isn’t that every PR person’s goal?
Don’t be a yes-person.
No client worth his mettle wants an order-taker. The client’s role—and, by extension, ours—is to help the organization engage key constituencies and enable management to make smart decisions, not drink the corporate Kool-Aid.
Represent the client well within the organization.
Every agency pro knows to be respectful of our client contact when engaging throughout the company, but we can go further and act as ambassadors for the internal communications department as a strategic business function.
Be a source of intelligence.
The best among us work hard to offer insights from new research; from our conversations with key journalists, bloggers, and influencers; or from competitive analysis. It’s not just about outcomes; it’s also our insights that set us apart and can help our clients stand out.
Make your client an expert.
Many clients have deep subject-matter expertise, but it may need to be shaped and, of course, promoted. Making your client a subject-matter expert is a great way to fulfill twin goals; you meet brand objectives while building the relationship.
Introduce new thinking.
This one’s obvious, but it can easily be put off in the day-to-day battle for results. There’s nothing like a great new idea to make your internal client executive look like a genius, but new thinking needn’t come in the form of a campaign. Part of making a client shine is pushing them outside the comfort zone to embrace an unfamiliar concept or strategy.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
Offer objective counsel.
I remember a meeting with a large, complex client organization at which someone floated a new customer policy. No one in the room thought it was a good idea, and our agency team had concerns, but it wasn’t a decision in our client’s domain. He was so accustomed to PR-unfriendly decisions that he shrugged off the proposed move. We urged him to speak up, and privately he did. Months later, the policy was implemented, prompting a fierce customer backlash and a hasty retreat. The client’s counsel didn’t change the course of events, but it did win points for him and for us.
Dorothy Crenshaw is CEO and creative director of Crenshaw
Communications. She has been named one of the public relations
industry’s 100 Most Powerful Women by PR Week. A version of this story
originally appeared on her agency's ImPRessions blog.