A good client

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?

Not exactly.

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.

Happy Holidays!

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

11 thoughts on “A good client

  1. Agreed. I find that PR is, beyond anything else, a continuous, uninterupted conversation between client and agency. If at any point one party stops talking or listening, the relationship, and therefore the pr plan, suffers for it…

  2. Right on the money Landis. I have been on the “client” side and, unfortunately, guilty of some of these behaviors. Lesson learned! This is great information for both the agencies and the clients. Maybe it’s a contract to be signed upon securing new clients!

  3. I think a good client has the ethics to ensure that their bills are paid on time, the morals to treat others as they like to be treated, the integrity to do what’s right and the willingness to accept the counsel of the experts they have hired. But then, that’s what a good client should expect from its agency, too. The list could go on and on.

  4. Thu funny thing is that all what you write is absolutely adoptable to all corners of this world. Here in Poland this list works perfect too. The most important – Client has to know why he or she hires an agency. Must know and well transmit the objectives of the project. Should not hide their business goals. By knowing them agency can be real and effective advisor. The best clients are “team members” not “controllers”.
    Dear clients – remember the objective is in your hands, agency will help you if you let help yourself. It depends on you!
    Mariusz Pleban, Managing Partner of Multi Communications, PRGN Poland

  5. All true. I’d add to the list of pet peeves: clients from large companies who can’t commit to a course of action because of bureaucracy or internal politics within their organizations.

  6. A good client is a client who (1) makes a decision based on facts and occassionally also on gut-feel; (2) does what he/she says he/she will do.

  7. David, well said. In fact, Indra and I have made mention of many of these same things ourselves — prepping clients in business meetings and commiserating with colleagues over drinks. Bailey Gardiner believes so much in this thinking that we have incorporated this type of language directly into our proposals, and reflect much of it again in our client contracts. We cover “What to expect from us” and “What we expect from you” sections….
    I’m going to twitter about your blog, so get ready for some hits…

  8. Bravo David! I’ve always believed that PR stands for personal relationship. It works both ways. As PR professionals, we partner with our clients and create a synergy that, if all parties are in alignment, can’t help but result in positive results. That being said, I learned early on how imperative education was with the client about the PR process. It became a hallmark of my mission statement. For so long I have wanted to rename the field of PR because I feel we cover so much more than “getting hits” for our clients. We are basically the caretakers of their brand and making that clear upfront in the proposal process as Jonathan indicated above, is essential. One last point – a tip that has helped me through the years work with challenging clients – was to remind myself that everyone is a teacher in my life. So when a “testy” client emerged, I realized there was some personal issues i needed to address within my own internal structure. Miraculously as I took those issues on, the “bad clients” seemed to fall away.

  9. Pingback: Setting the tone for a great client relationship | Don't drink the koolaid
  10. The key theme that works its way through this post in the need for honesty.
    Clients – if you are unhappy, tell us. If you’re happy, tell us. If you’re going to be late with a pyment, tell us.
    Agencies – if you can’t meet the client’s need, tell them. If you just don’t get it, tell them. If you hit it out of the park, tell them.
    Sharing results, strategies, good news and bad should be the easiest part of a business rleationship, but often turns out to be the hardest.

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