While I consider myself a fairly seasoned PR pro, I certainly don’t hold the secret recipe for client happiness. There are a lot of variables involved in the client-services industry – boards, budgets, staff, strategic shifts – all of which affect the relationship between you, our clients, and us, your PR firm.
What we can control is results. But what are the results that matter most to you? Sometimes figuring that out is half the battle. Certainly some of our clients directly tell us that they want a story on NPR. But, more often than not, the real expectations are implicit, rather than explicit. For example:
Client Says: “Our previous firm brought us three opportunities a week.”
We Hear: “You are expected to bring us AT LEAST three opportunities a week.”
Client Says: “Whatever happened to that interview we did with John Smith?”
We Hear: “Could you please reach out to John Smith and find out when we can expect an article featuring us?”
Client Says: “Did you see that Competitor X is speaking at the biggest industry trade show?”
We Hear: “Please get me a speaking spot at this and all other key trade shows ASAP.”
These are just a few examples. We have a few ways to figure out what you’re asking for, whether you are asking directly or not:
- Hang out: The better you know someone, the better you are at identifying their implicit expectations. The more time we can spend with you, the easier it is for us to tell when a colleague is muddying the waters or the product team is getting anxious for that review to hit. We relish in taking clients to lunch or happy hour to build a comfortable relationship with mutual trust and understanding.
- Just ask: Sometimes having an honest conversation about the work we’re doing (or, more importantly, not doing) can help clarify what you want. And this is the type of strong relationship we try to build with all of our clients. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly check-ins with our client present good opportunities for this earnest dialogue.
- Listen to EVERYTHING: Not every conversation with a client is focused on the scope of work. Sometimes expectations will come out as a sidebar in another meeting or conversation we have with them (or they are having with someone else). As an integral part of your team, we strive to soak up all the information we can to best serve your needs.
- Know the boss: Our clients look to us to help them look like rock stars to their bosses. Both our client and our team needs to understand as much as we can about the goals of the organization as a whole and have a good grip on how success is measured. Including your boss in meetings with the agency not only helps us better understand him or her, but we can also help identify what he or she expects.
Certainly, if navigating client relationships was easy, we would all be millionaires. But building a good agency-client relationship is a labor of love that helps us stand out from the competition.