Building and Maintaining Virtual Client Relationships

Woman on virtual meeting looking at coworkers
Photo courtesy of Pexels.

By Andie Davis, Andy Lowe 

COVID-19 has changed many things for communicators, from how we manage projects to how we dress – many of us now work in hoodies and sweatpants.  

While the immediate impacts of the pandemic are lightening up, many public relations professionals will likely stick to working remotely. Let’s look at a few ways to maintain and grow our client relationships at a distance. 

Virtual Meetings 

Meetings are still the best way to work through strategies and plans with clients. They allow us to get feedback and work through problems in real-time. Now, virtual meetings are the standard. Meetings with clients (1:1s, virtual training sessions, strategy meetings, etc.) and emails are likely the most frequent forms of daily communication that we use with our clients. Recurring meetings are vital to building good client meetings. 

Understand Your Clients’ Why 

Purpose is vital to client success. At Landis Communications, we are always thinking of the “Why.” Why is that? We find our clients’ “Why” by using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, designed to understand how an organization thinks, acts, and communicates its purpose. The purpose of a company will manifest itself in many ways, including mission statements, business decisions, internal and external content. Landis recommends frequently revisiting your client’s Why to assess how their communications plan meets that goal. 

Understand the Industry 

Like the “Why,” a strong client relationship depends on understanding the current state of the client’s industry. You should have a strong understanding of the top competitors, where they view themselves in terms of market share and how they would like to be perceived by the media and the outlets’ audience. Clients trust you as their go-to source. Do your homework and stay up-to-date on current trends within your clients’ industries to maintain trust in those relationships. 

Take a Personal Interest  

The best networking advice I (Andy) ever received was ‘don’t make it only about work.’ The same principle holds for client relationships. To develop strong connections, learn and understand your clients beyond the scope of the account. Depending on your client’s personality, it is advisable to strike up a conversation with them about their life outside of work.  

Establishing a shared connection with a client offers several benefits and data points you won’t find in a work-back; data including stress levels, workload (outside of your projects), enthusiasm and additional interest –  you should also be connecting with journalists outside of just pitching.  

Our methods may change with time and new tools, but communicating and building professional relationships haven’t. Our recommendation? Use the time and energy spared from long commutes to focus on building solid connections. 

Additional Reading: 

7 tips to building strong relationships with clients in a remote environment, Adobe 

15 tips for building deep relationships with new clients in a virtual world, The Business Journals 

Three essentials to strong agency-client relationships, Fast Company