August 31, 2009
As individuals, we can all view things differently from each other. This notion applies just as well to clients as to their PR agencies and PR managers. Differences of perspective, if not managed effectively, can lead to differences in understanding and, worse, difficulties in a client relationship. However, you can learn to excel in your client relationships by ensuring you follow these eight simple rules. 1) Clearly agree scope and terms of work That’s the start. You both should know what you are going to commit to. Get to know your client’s expectations and be sure you understand them correctly and comprehensively. 2) Meet and talk You should know who your client is: company, your contact person/people, main spokespeople, heads of different departments, etc. Let them know you are there for them, that you are committed to delivering great work for them. Introduce yourself and get to know their preferences in communications and how they conduct themselves as professionals. 3) Be thorough when reviewing plans and tasks Whether weekly or daily, be sure to talk to your client and be available to him or her when they need you. When you engage, be thorough and pay attention to detail – the who, what, how, where, why, when of an action point. Details are also a good basis to contribute to creativity and mutual brainstorming as well as, of course, understanding. 4) Follow through quickly and with care Don’t make your client wait for you. Be prepared always to answer any questions. If you can’t answer them straightaway, at least assure the client that you will return with the answers as soon as you can, but don’t say you don’t know even on your return call – after all, you’re their adviser! 5) Meet deadlines In Russia we say “Seven people never wait for one” and that’s true. Try to announce real deadlines and never be late. Be punctual and always hit the deadline but, even better, exceed the client expectations by delivering ahead of the deadline. 6) Meet demands Your client has all the rights to be demanding on the basis of the contractual agreement for the work plans and tasks. So you should always be ready to answer the question “So what are you working on now?” Even better, your regular reports/updates to them should pre-empt any need for the client to have to ask you this in the first place. 7) Write good client reports This is clearly a skill that can be learned, though perhaps you already have a talent to write good client reports. What is clear is that you must recognise that report writing is an essential skill and once you must master. Make reports comprehensive and clear. It should be understandable for both sides and transparent for those who ultimately oversee your cooperation with the client (e.g., client CEO, board director or the head of a business unit). Make your gains visible, but don’t hide any problems – just be sure to explain them and what you have done to address them. 8) Be polite! That should be easy, shouldn’t it? Of course, there are many other tips and ways in which you as a PR manager can engage and contribute to great client relationships, but without these eight, you’re going to find it impossible to do so.