Clients are the backbone of any thriving customer-service business and the resource upon which the success of a business depends. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we need to make sure our clients are not just satisfied, but also happy.
Below are 5 fundamentals that we incorporate into the relationships with our clients:
1. Set clear expectations: Helping clients understand the PR process as well as setting and outlining realistic expectations can dramatically improve their satisfaction with your services. Take the time to speak with your clients and make sure they have a clear idea of the goals you hope to achieve with them (it may help to show them coverage from similar clients to give them an idea of what’s reasonable).
To make sure everyone is aligned, discuss the media outlets that are important to them and develop a PR strategy that lines up with their goals. Be clear about how you will communicate with your clients and how quickly you will get back to them (within 24 hours is usually ideal, but obviously faster depending on the urgency).
Discuss deadlines and make a list of promises each party will adhere to. When working with the media, reporters are often under strict deadlines and at times need comments right away. Be sure that clients are aware of this. The same goes for events—pitching often needs to be done several weeks in advance so having the necessary materials ahead of time is very important. It’s vital to remember that this is a two-way street and for both parties to be successful, collaboration and accountability are crucial.
2. Honesty is key: No long-term relationship survives if the two parties aren’t honest with each other.
In PR there are no guarantees, and it would be wrong to promise coverage to a client without knowing what can be delivered. While we can do everything in our power to try and sell a story, it’s impossible to predict whether a reporter or a producer will like a pitch or quote a client.
It’s also very important to be honest about the results that are secured. The media may pick up a story about a client that your firm is not responsible for. While coverage is almost always appreciated, don’t add that to your monthly report as something you secured.
In a nutshell– It’s more sensible to under-promise and over deliver and it’ll make your clients that much more excited when they wind up on the home page of TechCrunch due to your hard work!
3. Set measurable goals: It is important to realize the significance of setting goals– and not just in your professional life. Setting goals gives you long -term vision and short-term motivation. Even in my previous line of work, as a third grade teacher, setting goals with my students was one of the most important activities of the year, as it gave them something to strive for, while keeping me accountable for their success.
As a PR professional, I also believe that setting goals with clients is crucial. It allows you to look at the big picture, creating a strategy that can lead towards the ultimate goal, which is to get coverage that will help a business build its brand and inevitably lead to more business opportunities. Refer to shared goals during every conversation to keep momentum and avoid unwanted distractions. One way to do that is through weekly check-ins to discuss progress. Monthly activity reports also allow clients to see the goals that have been achieved over the past month. This provides clients with transparency while also offering the chance to revisit goals for future planning.
4. Pay attention to the details: It can be easy for big picture thinking to keep you from caring about the small stuff. But, as Steve Jobs said, “Details matter. It’s worth waiting to get it right.” The little things can have an enormous impact on your relationships, be it with your clients or your media contacts.
Paying attention to the details is important for avoiding errors, maintaining efficiency and making a good impression—which is what our clients invariably hire us for. So being mindful of emails, news releases, etc. is very important. It’s equally as important to know your clients’ industry inside and out. This is actually a very big detail! Understanding their messaging and their branding, along with their competition is invaluable. Remember, quality should be non-negotiable—and is in fact, a competitive advantage.
5. Communicate effectively—and constantly: That means anticipating your clients needs before they know their own, and constantly updating them along the way. One way to do that is by sending daily updates. Our clients are very busy running their companies and have many different things to keep track of. If meetings are set up for them, send over talking points ahead of time; make sure they know about deadlines, as well as upcoming events or speaking opportunities.
It’s also important to make sure to know the way your client likes to communicate best (is it through email, over the phone, or even possibly through SMS)?
Being a good communicator means listening to your clients needs. Listening and clearly organizing your thoughts before sharing can help you more effectively share ideas or concerns.
Working in any industry, especially PR, involves a lot of moving parts, which is why it’s essential to have a system in place to help manage client relations and expectations. This list aims to help you to strike that delicate balance. And, hopefully word of mouth (from all your happy clients) will travel fast!