In a Relationship-Based Industry, the Most Important One is with Your Client
On most agency websites you’ll see some variance of the old cliché “PR is all about relationships.” Successful agencies have strong relationships with journalists covering the beats relevant to their clients and with industry movers and shakers who can open doors. The best PR pros also have relationships with leaders at complementary organizations for collaborations that amplify their results. In PR, it is all about relationships, but the most important relationship to nurture and grow is the one you have with your clients. Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure clients feel the love and remember your name the next time their friend’s company is asking where to find good PR help.
First, don’t send follow up emails. We’re all guilty of the “just following up” notes. Some appreciate the friendly ping as a reminder that something is outstanding on their to-do list and it shows the agency’s ownership of a task. But does it really? Owning a task means you’re seeing it through and making sure you’ve done everything within your powers to achieve the objectives. Ask yourself, “Does shooting a follow up email help me achieve the goals of the project?” Your note might remind them that they need to take action, but what you’re really seeking is the result from their action. Instead of just following up, help them take action. If you just need the client to make a decision, give new insights or perspective to shake them loose. This will also serve as a reminder. If more is needed, for instance, when the client owes you a bylined thought leadership piece, take a first stab at it so they have something to respond to. Even if you missed the mark, it could help them visualize what they want to the piece to look like and they’ll appreciate you getting it started. Which leads to the next point…
Make sure you’re making your clients’ lives easier. PR agencies’ role in business is to help the client make more money. By promoting them, we provide them additional opportunities to do what they already do — whether providing more of their service, selling more widgets or making a larger impact for their cause. Everything we as PR professionals do can be boiled down to whether or not it made it easier for our clients to make more money. In the process of implementing your brilliant communications strategy, you’ll likely run into a log jam. In your eyes, the log jam is caused because you’ve taken a project as far as you can and now it’s in the client’s hands to take it across the finish. It’s true that sometimes it can’t be your face in front of the camera for the morning news segment. However, outside of physically being your client, I’m willing to bet that there is always something more you can do to make their life easier while staying on track with the strategy. Waiting for input on messaging and design for that campaign launching soon? Send them examples of effective campaigns along with a few that tanked and provide some context to better guide their thoughts. Companies and brands hire PR pros because they aren’t experts in communication, we are. Often they’re indecisive because they don’t understand the nuances that separate a good campaign from a great campaign. Make their life easier by helping them feel informed and empowered. A bonus outcome is that they’ll appreciate you for the campaign strategy and results even more.
One of the simplest ways to support a strong client relationship is to provide agendas at all meetings. Whether it’s a quick FaceTime chat on a new tactic or a strategic brainstorm with all the decision makers, providing an agenda tells the client there’s a purpose for the meeting. It’s subtle, but this reinforces agency value. Agendas remind clients why they are spending 60 minutes meeting with you instead of doing something else. Clients appreciate when you value their time and in return, will value yours as well.
Finally, make connections for clients. This is the most impactful tip as you could provide an additional bottom line benefit for their organization. When you’re networking, think about how each person you meet could benefit from connecting with your client, or vice versa. Your new contact might not be a prospective customer, but if it helps achieve the overall goal, (see paragraph one) your client will appreciate it. In addition to providing value, it also shows the client you’re thinking about them and their goals even when you’re not billing.
As Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Be intentional with how you make clients feel and when you foster that relationship, you’ll set yourself up for success.