At our New York public relations agency, we can never be accused of under-communicating with clients. Beyond daily e-mails and weekly status calls, we manage to achieve maximum “touchpoints” throughout the week. If you ask anyone in our firm, they will agree that better client agency relations are, if not THE key, certainly one key to better PR outcomes. This isn’t brain surgery or touchy feely shrink-speak; it’s simply true that better communication breeds success. Here are some examples of how this manifests itself in the PR world.
Go right to the source. If all you’ve ever done is read about the company’s latest and greatest on the website or in an RFP, get your client to tell you about it. Actually get the individual closest to the product’s creation to talk about it. You will glean untold facts, learn to better “sell” the story to the press in the client’s language, and increase your client’s good perception of you!
Let no misunderstandings linger. The minute something goes south – someone has blown a deadline, that phrase in the press release didn’t get changed, the reporter you prepared for starts asking crazy questions – nip it in the bud with a conversation. First of all, it is more direct and greatly appreciated. Second of all, there are some things that are better left “unsent” and best handled by talking.
Confirm. And confirm again. Even if you risk cluttering the in-box, when there are important deadlines on both the client and agency side, your emailed confirmation/s may be the most effective arrow in the quiver with a busy or impossible-to-reach client. And when the deadline is passed and the result is a great one, they may thank you for your hyper-efficiency.
Temperature check, often. If you get the feeling that you aren’t getting enough input to do your work well, have a candid chat with your client that can be as simple as saying, “What’s new?” and meaning it! If that doesn’t get your client talking, prepare a brief memo titled something like “In Preparation for Press Interviews” with some open-ended questions and see if that can get the ball rolling.
Get on the same rhythm. After even a short amount of time with a client, you will learn who likes to be contacted on their cell vs. office line, who is a morning person or a night owl and who replies to email with terse one-word responses. Once you have deciphered this client code, you will communicate better with each contact and they will come to appreciate that about you. This “greases the skids” for more personal interaction and a better overall relationship.