5 traits that make a client a perfect match for a PR pro

Finding the right clientele for you or your agency to represent is a lot like dating. Here’s how you can find a working relationship made in heaven.

What are the first things you look for on a date to want to keep seeing that person?

If you’re me, you want to feel a connection, a hint of shared interests, an ability to clearly communicate, a confidence and a spark.

The same goes for how to identify a client who will match up well with you and your team.

Chemistry and energy are everything in relationships. You’re not going to be attracted to every personality. The same applies to work relationships.

Business owners must cultivate detachment. They must know that it is not insuperable if you don’t match with every client. Understand yourself well enough to know what personal relationships work for you. It’s a learned skill.

There are personalities and energies that I work well with: strong, hands-on communicators who realize PR is not done in a vacuum.

To identify the personalities you work best with, consider these five tips:

1. Phone chemistry. As in dating, chemistry is very important. If we didn’t meet at a networking event or in person, I usually get introduced or learn about a potential client on email, then hop on the phone.

I often decide from that first phone conversation whether I want to proceed. I consider the energy they convey, the ease of our communication and the questions about their business they can answer.

2. Client’s understanding of their business. If a prospective client tells me they’ve used five other agencies and aren’t seeing results, my attention shifts to the common denominator there. Some agencies aren’t strategic and may not be able to uncover compelling stories.

We’ve saved executives by coming through with an unexpected angle that appeals to top-tier media. We’ve shown them how good PR can be. But those execs must first have a tight grip on where their business is going and why they’re hiring a PR team. Lacking that firm grip, they’re not prepared to be a strong client.

3. Consideration of budget. It’s important for the client to discover first whether they have considered what their marketing budget should look like. If a client doesn’t believe they have the money for marketing, I say, “Then you’re not ready for PR.”

This world forms a magical tricycle of marketing. PR is the leading point of the triangle, the messages and the voice of the brand. On the left, you have social media as an organic outlet to reach your audiences. On the right, you have digital marketing (website, newsletter, etc.).

All three wheels must work together to propel marketing forward. Our agency can pedal as hard as possible to get them all the publicity in the world, but if the client doesn’t have a great website on which to place it or social media to share it, they won’t get the value of what we give them. I often give them that advice. I tell them to come back once all three wheels are spinning.

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4. Attitude. Attitude is key. If you’re a positive person, pleasant to work with, I get excited. If you’re someone who just sends over a list of requests and expects us to jump to it, I’m wary.

A great client looks at what we do as a partnership, not as a contracted servants to get them coverage. It doesn’t work that way. In order to get the best out of any situation, we must agree to talk at least once a week to stay on track.

5. Willingness to be coached. Some clients tell you, “I could do it myself. I’ve been doing it myself. But I’m so busy, I’m going to push this off to you guys.” Because they have an inkling of what they think PR should be, they believe you’re only necessary to save them time, not elevate their brand.

I tell them: “If you think you can do it yourself, then you should continue doing it that way.” Any person in any industry needs to be open to taking counsel and identifying what they don’t already know. That’s why there are specialists in every field. You may know how to unclog a toilet, but do you consider yourself a plumber?

You may be able to send an email to a journalist, but do you know how to come up with story angles that appeal to many media? Do you know how to find those media? Do you really want to be doing that anyway?

The executives who have all the answers don’t want to take advice, and aren’t much fun to work with. They live in a bubble of imaginary perfection, laser-focused on telling you what to do, rather than talking through the strategy together. A great client is willing to get feedback to learn where to improve his or her opportunities.

If these five factors are present at the beginning, the client and I will have a good relationship. When clients are practiced in these skills—and communication, consideration and a shared vision are in place—it’s much easier to deal with hiccups and find solutions.

Nicole Rodrigues is the CEO and founder of NRPR Group.

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