After I wrote my first book I decided to work with a PR firm to help publicize both my book and me. A friend of mine hooked me up with a firm which I worked with for a year. The people there were very nice and they got me a lot of interviews, including a few in some very prominent publications. I also wrote articles which were published in a number of magazines. I got along great with the folks at the PR firm and genuinely enjoyed them on both a personal and professional level. While so many things were going well, and I to this day respect the folks there, I decided to part ways because after a year I didn’t see the financial results I had hoped to see.
A relationship between a PR professional and the client can be a value-added experience for both the client and the PR professional. When done well, the client can see tangible results from the relationship which justifies the PR professional’s fees. When done poorly, the client has difficulty understanding why he or she has to do yet another fruitless interview for a target market that doesn’t match who the client is trying to reach. The end result can be a disillusioned client who is exasperated with writing yet another check for PR fees which don’t provide the value he or she is expecting.
Keep the following things in mind as you’re working with your clients to help get the relationship off on the right foot and help you provide continued value to the relationship:
- Understand what success means from the client’s viewpoint – Take time when you start working with your client to understand what success means to him or her. Maybe it’s number of interviews, maybe it’s placement in prominent print, radio, or TV outlets. Maybe it’s the number of speaking engagements your client gets as result of your work. Whatever the measure, take time to understand it and realign expectations with your client if necessary.
- Ensure your client understands what his or her responsibility is in the relationship – To make the relationship work, be crystal clear with your client as to what you expect him or her to do to maximize the results. Maybe your client needs to provide you with an in-depth bio to help you better understand his or her capabilities. Perhaps your client needs to keep a watch for current events for which he or she can provide perspective. Clearly articulate the responsibilities you expect from your client and ensure he or she lives up to those responsibilities.
- Focus on quality, not quantity – So you may be able to round up a lot of interviews for publications which either have low circulation or do not focus on the client’s target market. Having interviews is fun and an ego boost for the client, but if your client’s exposure isn’t hitting his or her target market then you’re just wasting his or her time and money. Make sure any work done on behalf of your client will help him or her better attract those in his or her target market and not fall on the wrong ears.
- Get out of the box – Think hard about what your client needs then dig deep into your toolkit for what services you might be able to provide to meet those needs. Maybe your clients are looking for expertise in presentation development, web development, PR kit assembly, speech writing, speaking engagements, or some other area which you may or may not currently consider your scope of work. It is important for you as a PR professional to keep your service offerings fresh and relevant which may mean you having to reinvent yourself at times.
- Stay on top of what is happening with the internet – The internet opens up a world of opportunity for everyone and allows for the average person sitting in his or her living room to reach millions of people. The internet can also spell doom for those who don’t understand how to leverage it and embed it into their business. This is particularly germane to PR professionals. There are incredible ways the internet can help increase a client’s presence, not only through articles and interviews but through things like search engine optimization, keyword density analysis, auto-responders, and link back strategies. Also, tools like PROFNET are available for anyone’s use, not just for PR firms. The internet can either be a wonderful tool for you to leverage or can irreparably harm your business. Keep up with the internet and figure out how it can reap value for your client. Don’t go the way of the typewriter salesman.
- Meet with your client regularly to discuss the relationship and how it could improve – Keep an open dialogue with your client to discuss how things are going from both viewpoints. Look at the success criteria that were developed at the beginning of the relationship and see how well you and the client are working toward meeting those criteria. Review the responsibilities you have both agreed to and determine how well you are both meeting them. For any areas where things aren’t going well, determine what you and your client are going to do to fix them.
Your relationship with your client can be mutually beneficial and one that your client willingly justifies your fees because of the value he or she gets in return. Keep the above things in mind as you craft your client relationship and drive the value both you and your client deserve.