Excelling at client relations is perhaps the most valuable skill you can learn while working at a PR agency.
Good client relations are a skillset you will use no matter where you go in your career. In fact, most major brands and in-house positions want to hire people who are or were “client facing” because it demonstrates they can work well with all types of people.
Some will argue working with the client can be more of a challenge than dealing with the press or even a crisis situation. Clients are demanding, opinionated, and often limited by other factors in their work environment that can then affect the supporting agency team.
Here are a few tips worth applying to your relationships and interactions with your clients, and in turn, if you manage an agency, here are some hints to consider when measuring how your agency team works with you:
1. Weekly meetings, whether in person or over the phone, should be more than just a rattling off of the to-do list. Each week, the agency team should support the client with two to three fresh ideas or pitch angles, and be able to report how the overall PR program excelled the week prior.
2. Schedule proactive brainstorming sessions with the client. This demonstrates that you want to keep ideas fresh and be well informed about the client’s needs. Brainstorms should be coupled with one on one interviews with the client’s key stakeholders, who are tied to the ideas or strategies that come out of the brainstorm.
3. Strike a balance of getting to know the client personally and professionally. Especially with a new client, it’s easy to want to get down to business instead of actually building a relationship. You don’t want to be intrusive, but when the time is right, learn something about the client—kids, interests, etc. If they have a Twitter handle, this is a great way to learn something without being intrusive.
4. Don’t let weekly meetings become your only touch point with the client. Additionally, don’t forget about the lost art of the telephone. A client who speaks to you is likely to include you more on strategic discussions and trust you as PR counsel. If you are a more junior member of the agency, seek opportunities through your manager to have this type of contact when appropriate and speak up in weekly meetings.
5. Remember to do “PR” for yourself. You don’t want to boast about every piece of feedback you get from a reporter or take responsibility for every PR program win, but maintaining two-way communication with the client on chief milestones of a project or a new press communication will help build your credibility in their eyes.