David Landis, trusty LCI President here.
In the midst of one of the biggest economic downturns that the United States has ever seen, it may not be timely to posit what a good client is. After all, we’re in the service business, and given that money is tight, isn’t a good client any client. . .as long as they pay?
Given these times, it might be blasphemy to go down this route. But hey, we’re going there anyway. Ultimately, PR professionals can only be successful when their clients are good partners.
Think of it like marriage. You are invested with the other party, you care about them, but if it’s not a two-way street, the marriage won’t work. Guess what? It’s just like that in business.
What makes a good client?
First, a good client is one who truly knows what they want to accomplish. We ask our clients to define success upfront. That way, we all know what we’re striving for. . .and what direction to take. We then build our PR program around that goal.
Second, a good client is one who communicates. We’ve had clients hire us and then not talk with us for weeks and sort of expect us to know by osmosis what they’re thinking. Clearly, that doesn’t work.
Third, a good client is knowledgeable, listens to professional advice (and may decide to go in another direction, which is fine), makes decisions within a logical timeframe and has realistic expectations. I can’t begin to tell you the number of new clients who expect that within a week of signing with a PR agency, their startup business will be on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. It doesn’t work that way. We recently were in a bid for a couple of agency reviews. One prospect’s previous agency had scored 214 top tier placements in six months (including Oprah, Good Morning America, the New York Times and more) . . .but still the client wasn’t satisfied. Another prospect had had 4 agencies inside of 16 months. Those situations scream, “Something is amiss,” and I don’t believe it’s the PR agency.
Fourth, a good client knows and understands that PR is part of the marketing mix, but also can’t ultimately help a failed product or a failed business plan. You still have to do everything else well – operations, product development, customer service, customer experience, pricing, differentiation, marketing, business development – in order to succeed.
So, I asked our indomitable LCI staffers to (anonymously) come up with our “biggest pet peeves” with client relationships. If you see something familiar here, maybe it’s time to re-visit how you work with your agency? After all, aren’t we all after the same goal – which is for your business as well as our agency to succeed.
Pet Peeves from PR Pros
a. Clients who demand a hit in the New York Times, but don’t understand that more strategic media hits are sometimes much more effective for the business at hand
b. Clients who make the agency chase after them every month to pay their bills on time
c. Clients who are unhappy but are too timid to confront the issue so that it can be addressed
d. Prospects who don’t get back to agencies after they have spent 80-plus hours putting together a comprehensive PR proposal
e. Clients who, when you get Good Morning America, ask, “But when will we be on The Today Show”?
f. Clients who don’t fill the agency in on their own internal PR initiatives
g. Clients who hire an additional PR consultant – but don’t tell the existing agency while they’re still working on the account
h. Clients who think they know PR (but don’t) and send the PR professional copies of PR For Dummies (True story!)
i. Clients who scream
j. The agency sends an urgent email to the client asking for important information, only to have the client respond with a whole new set of questions, neglecting your original ask.
k. Clients who don’t say two simple words: Thank you.
Please e-mail me your thoughts, ideas and comments: david’landispr.com