Working With Clients

Understand what clients want from a PR and how to develop an effective working relationship with them

One of the main working relationships you'll have at a PR agency is with your clients. So, it's important you understand what it is they want from you and what role you play in developing an effective working relationship. Hayley Cole from Stellar and I give you some insight into what client management responsibilities you may have when you are in the most junior role at an agency, what the client will expect from you, how to establish great email etiquette and whether responding to clients out of hours is taboo.


WHAT DO CLIENTS WANT FROM THEIR PR AGENCY?

  • Expertise. They've appointed your agency as they feel you are the best people to help them achieve their PR goals

  • To be challenged. If you can see a better path to achieving their results, they want to know about it

  • Good communicators. And not just with media, but with the client themselves. They want to be kept across successes, challenges and opportunities

  • Trust. To know you've got their best interests at heart and you're doing what you promised to achieve their goals

  • Industry experts. You're across their industry in general and know developments and trends

“If you've made a mistake, clients want to see a timely acknowledgement, ownership and a solution.”

Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more tips and insight on working with clients. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".

WHAT KIND OF CLIENT RESPONSIBILITIES WOULD AN ACCOUNT COORDINATOR/ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE HAVE?

  • Attend client meetings and take notes. You'll be responsible for keeping track of who is responsible for each task, when their deadline to complete it is and then disseminating that information post-meeting so everyone is clear on what they are responsible for doing

  • Research. You'll be doing a lot of research and this could include determining a group of relevant influencers to use in a campaign, discovering relevant media coverage opportunities in particular publications, exploring packaging options for a media-send out or assisting with a new client proposal. And then sharing that research and the team's recommendations with the client

  • Reporting. This is another one you'll do a lot of. From weekly press coverage reports to monthly and end-of-campaign reports. You'll be expected to get the information from your colleagues and compile it together to send to the client

  • Press coverage. Sending around press coverage to your client and relevant team members


MEETING A CLIENT FOR THE FIRST TIME? THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW...

  • Understand your client's company/brand/products. Engage with that brand as much as you can prior to the meeting. If it's a new range of products, take a look at them, try them out. You want to have some exposure to whatever it is your agency is responsible for the PR of, plus have an opinion of that offering, should you be asked by the client

  • Know what your client has employed the agency for and at what stage of the campaign it is. Is it a media relations campaign? Is there an influencer engagement component? What are the goals and KPIs? What has been achieved so far and what's still to be done?

  • Ask your manager what your role in the meeting is. It may be to take notes, it may be to give an update on something you've been researching for the client

  • Observe. How do your colleagues interact with the client? How do they manage the flow of a meeting? How do they deal with a curly question?

  • Ask how their business is going. It shows you have a care for their business, outside of your PR responsibilities. It also may help you discover some opportunities you can assist with. E.g, the trade in the bar on a Tuesday night has really dipped since another bar opened nearby. This gives you the opportunity to come up with an angle or offering that would drive media coverage and therefore customers for that night

  • Remember the basics. Look them in the eye when you shake their hand, firm hand shake, use their name....


WHAT IS APPROPRIATE EMAIL ETIQUETTE?

  • Know your audience. Always be professional but adapt your tone to your client. Some may appreciate a very formal tone and others respond better to you being a little more conversational and friendly

  • Don't use kisses, emojis or unnecessary exclamation marks. As your relationship and familiarity with that client develops, it may be appropriate to start using them but take your lead from them and don't use in the first instance

  • Be succinct. Don't give them paragraphs of information to read through. Use dot-points/headings if that helps sort the information and get to the point, quickly

  • Minimise the number of emails you send. If you have multiple things to get back to a client about over the course of a day, combine them into one email

  • Take a breath before sending an email that might be confronting for the client. Context and tone can be hard to communicate so write your email and come back to it a few hours later and review to see if it's still the best way to word something. Get a level-headed colleague to review the email and provide their thoughts. Ultimately, it may be better communicated over the phone or face-to-face where you can control the flow of dialogue better

  • Acknowledge all emails that come in, in a reasonable time frame. Ideally, all emails should be actioned withing 24 hours or at the very least, responded to. Even if you're just letting a client know you've received the email, you'll do some research on it and will come back to them later that day

  • CC your manager in. Most managers will need to be across any communication from the agency to a client but check with your manager and ask them what they'd like. And remember, you may be working with a few different managers that all have different requirements when it comes to client communication so you'll have to adapt to each of them

  • Keep out-of-hours client responses to a minimum. Sometimes clients may email you in the evening as that's when they're getting their work done, but it doesn't mean you have to respond. If a client is constantly emailing you out-of-ours and expecting you to respond, address it with your manager


WORKING WITH A CLIENT YOU'RE JUST NOT CLICKING WITH?

  • If you just don't like them, then you're going to have to suck it up. You won't be friends with every client and it's important you learn to adapt to people with different personalities

  • Try to determine if there's a genuine issue that can be fixed. Maybe they're annoyed you're sending too many emails in one day or that they're always chasing you for something they need. It could be they worked with another PR agency prior to yours and didn't have a great experience with them. So, you need to build up their trust and prove you can deliver what they need from you

  • If you're being treated unreasonably or unprofessionally, raise it with your manager immediately


TOP TIPS FOR DEVELOPING AND SUSTAINING A GREAT WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH A CLIENT

  • Think ahead. They're employing you to be one step ahead of them so if you're solving issues before they become a major pain, creating opportunities where they didn't realise there were any and give them updates before they ask for it, they'll love you for it

  • Be transparent and accountable. Own your mistakes. Validate how you have come to an opinion, recommendation or difference in thinking.

  • Maintain regular contact. Understand how they like to be communicated with and how regularly. If they prefer a phone conversation, then always follow that up with an email to recap on what was discussed/agreed on, action points and deadlines

  • Meet deadlines. Never, EVER, be chased for something

  • Be responsive. If they ask something of you that's not urgent, give them a quick reply to say you've got the email and you'll come back to them later that day or the next day. At least they know it hasn't been ignored

  • Get to know the client. Know what impresses them and what makes their life easier. Nurture that relationship with thoughtful gestures such as flowers on their birthday or a bottle of champagne following a key business success

  • Keep the KPIs or campaign goals in mind. It can be easy to lose track of the focuses and spend your time doing something not entirely relevant to the campaign

  • Be an industry expert. Know what's happening with their key competitors and the industry in general. Be across trends/developments/challenges and share them with the client

If you've already established great working relationships with clients but have never had much success in getting your client on radio, take a listen to this episode - Pitching to Radio.

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