Six weeks into my first position at a marketing/PR agency, I find myself working with clients more often. The task can seem intimidating at times. For a rookie, managing the client relationship can be like sitting at the dinner table with your rich uncle you only see a few times a year. You’re eager to impress, but donâ€™t want to seem overly try-hard.
Last week, Kevin Donnellon, a friend and former VP at PR agency giant Golin-Harris, sent me this newsletter on client relationships. It was a welcome read. I mentioned the important lesson Kevin taught me on handshakes in a previous comment on one of Tonyâ€™s posts.
If youâ€™re new to the industry like me, you probably donâ€™t have much client relationship experience to draw on. I frantically have been searching my brain for all the tidbits of advice Iâ€™ve gotten from teachers and colleagues over the years. Here are three guiding principles that may help you learn your way. (Or, if you already know your way, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.)
1. Build Trust Focusing on Solutions
This seemed to be at the heart of Kevinâ€™s post. From what Iâ€™ve seen with clients at my firm, they come to us with a problem in hand. For us, itâ€™s usually a messaging problem, a public agenda they’d like to set forth, or just bad media coverage they need to go away.
The communicators I meet who have much success in this area guide their interactions by asking if they are solving the problem, rather than focusing on the minutia of contract details. And remember, no real solution can come without a thorough understanding of your client’s business.
2. Be a Thought Partner
This idea came to me from one of my advisors at school, who worked for dg&a, an internal communications specialty. Theyâ€™ve branded their marketing message as being â€œYour thought partner,â€ a catchy little phrase in my opinion.
I think what it means is to include your client in thought strategy, and more importantly, to earn their trust enough so they include you in theirs. When youâ€™re presented with a problem, it may be tempting to formulate a solution in a unilateral manner. I think when you approach a problem that way, you increase the likelihood of filters coming up. This is because there is no participation or pre-sell in the formulation of the answer.
3. The Clientâ€™s Time is More Important Than Yours
Hereâ€™s something that on the surface may not seem like a huge concern. How difficult should it be to allot time for client contact? But if you think about it, especially when you consider juggling multiple clients, they all can only get so much of your time.
Because I lack experience, it helps me to view any clients I work with as the kings and queens of my world. As time goes on, Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll learn to juggle clients with more efficiency and learn which ones rule the most important kingdoms.Visit Website