Clients pay public relations agencies for many reasons, such as delivering results through a media relations plan, thought leadership strategy, developing messaging ahead of or during an issue or preparing spokespersons in advance of an interview. But, do our clients pay us to care about them?
Technically, no. Clients pay PR agencies to help drive their goals and bottom lines. But, we are not robots. We are humans with a natural tendency to connect and build strong relationships with others. Although the top priority is keeping our eye on the high-level goals and constantly delivering value, we should want more than that for our clients.
There is something magical that happens when an account team and their client begin to “click.” Aside from understanding how each other work best to achieve goals, there is a thrill of learning about what makes our clients tick on a semi-personal level.
PR pros should remember the importance, value and emotional return of building valuable relationships with clients. Consider these tips to guide your client relationships.
The biggest factor in client relationships is trust, and it must be earned. Of course, the quality of work you deliver, counsel you provide and the anticipation of your clients’ needs is important, but trust is where it starts – it is the mainstay of any relationship. Building trust takes hard work and is fostered by being dependable, taking accountability and listening. When your clients trust you, they will have confidence in your decisions.
Be Authentically Human.
There is great value in elevating your client relationships past the level of emails. Pick up the phone to ask important question rather than relying on an email. Nowadays, we are mostly reduced to an image on a screen or a name in a Zoom box. You may find that by picking up the phone and asking how your client is doing is welcomed during a tough day. Before you ask your program-related question, consider asking your client first how they are doing. The more you have these micro exchanges, the more you will find out about your client. You need to take the time to build a sincere, authentic connection.
Be Emotionally Intelligent.
Another important element in client relationships is how well you pay attention and utilize your emotional intelligence. There will, inevitably, be times when your client comes to you upset or frustrated, and you need to have the ability to exercise empathy and hear them out to help them make the situation right. How you handle the interaction will help your client feel like you have their back, as well as help build trust. Listen to their tone of voice, put yourself in their shoes and understand how they feel. By listening intently, you can help them through their tough day – whatever the situation may be.
Like the core of the public relations industry – building and managing relationships between an organization and its constituents – this principle applies to your interactions with clients. There is an art to providing top-notch client service and building strong relationships with your clients. However, it must be natural and cannot be forced.