If you are in the business of marketing and/or public relations, you understand the value of building and nurturing relationships.
For most of us, five to seven years is the average longevity of the client/PR practitioner engagement — businesses change and grow, people move on and circumstances change. It’s always a little sad, but new opportunities come along and we begin anew. For my practice, the best example is a client whom I have worked with for more than 11 years…a PR “love story” of sorts that started before the company’s birth and ends now more than a decade later as the company finalizes its sale to a larger corporate entity.
As a public relations professional, I love the narrative and am immediately drawn to summarizing my experiences while gleaning important life lessons from the process. So while the highlights of this client/consultant relationship are too many to list here, following are five takeaways I hope will help you in your own client relationships.
Embrace the Client’s Vision
On a hot July day in the year 2000, two gentlemen came to call at my agency to describe their unique vision for their business. Both were already greatly experienced in their field, but this was going to be new. They were fired up, passionate, determined, meticulously professional, and I was immediately caught up in their mission. I wanted to be part of this new beginning, I had to, and I was ready to give it my all to help them succeed. You must share your client’s belief if you are going to convince the outside world to believe in it too.
Listen & Let Go
When a client first shares his or her story, there is so much to be told that it is hard to take it all in. Plans, logistics and dreams all fold in together and later have to be sorted out and coalesced. You must listen to what is said and what is unsaid, and then let the magic happen…the creative roadmap that expresses the vision and drives the process. It comes later that night or at an unexpected moment the next day – you could be running down the road, taking the proverbial shower, or driving down the highway when it hits you.
But you know when it’s right, and you can’t wait to share it because you know they are just going to love it. That’s what happened with this client – we took off with the winning creative direction within just a couple of weeks and never looked back. It was right and it was built to last…for 11 years at least.
Speak in Your Client’s Voice & Act as One
As the client relationship grows, it is a joy to feel the trust build between you. That’s when you know you can write the perfect news release, create the most impactful headlines, or select the most appropriate corporate gift with hardly any input. You take on the client’s voice and learn how to think as they think so that everything you do is in line with their branding and corporate values. Your client begins to know that with just a few words, you will understand what they are looking for. It may take months or it may take years but when you reach this point, it is one of the most fulfilling moments in your career.
Take a Seat at the Management Table
This is the pinnacle of your relationship where you are invited to take your place among the insiders. You present at the annual meeting. You sit with management at the board room table. Thoughts and ideas flow freely and yours are taken seriously and acted upon. You are making a difference in the life of this company. It is the PR professional’s dream come true.
Treasure the People
After all the business terminology, intricate marketing plans and measurable objectives, it ultimately comes down to the people. Does your clients’ professional life mirror his/her vision? Do they stay true to their goals making it easy for you to report their accomplishments? Do they maintain passion and compassion in all they do? Are they people that you admire and want to showcase to the public? Is their level of integrity one you aspire to as well? Hopefully you can answer yes.
Because if you can, you have achieved the ultimate public relations career goal — a mutually beneficial long-term relationship that enhances your client’s reputation, community relationships and their bottom line.
This is what makes me love the PR life….do you have a similar experience to share?