Working in a PR agency means working with clients and making them happy. Yet not all have the same goals, needs, or expectations. But it’s fair to say that the best PR people, like Liam Neeson, have a particular set of skills that keep the clients coming back year after year. Here are seven indispensible rules to becoming a client service superstar.
Always Be Creating. Clients pay agencies for ideas. Ideas for messaging, for story angles, data-driven research, strategies, tactics, plans, and activations. There is no autopilot on the PR agency dashboard. The steady drumbeat of coverage that agencies strive for demand new thinking because there won’t always be something newsworthy to talk about. It’s PR’s job to drive conversations and ideas that keep the media interested, but even more importantly, to let your clients know you’re always helping them succeed.
We’re in communications after all, so silence within a relationship is the kiss of death. Constant proactive communication is the key to PR teams never letting the client doubt its commitment. Keep the client informed about the progress of media pitches in progress. Bring that stream of new thoughts and ideas, both large and small. Don’t be bashful about questions. A good rule of thumb is PR pros should email or message every client once a day at absolute minimum. See this earlier post for more on what clients should expect from their PR agency.
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best services PR provides is the ability to spot BS. Clients pay for our expertise and guidance in the world of media relations. That includes being forthright and transparent if a client’s idea may not work, why we feel that way, and what the alternative solutions may be. We’re counselors, and we owe our clients a point of view that’s grounded in experience and good judgment.
This one can be controversial because many agencies worry about “scope creep” and we work to curb constant overservicing to meet a client’s goals. Yet the occasional assistance outside the strict scope of work can do wonders for the client relationship and cement a service-oriented foundation for the long term.
Our informal research shows that while clients can be blown away by top-tier strategic thinking and impressive creativity when they shop around for PR agencies, they most often judge the agency team on simple responsiveness. It’s obvious, but sometimes this basic rule gets lost in the fog of war. Responsiveness means answering emails promptly, making sure that queries are covered on weekends and holidays, and a certain “can-do” attitude, even when things are tricky.
It’s very easy in PR to perceive clients (and vice versa) as mere email addresses or Slack handles that fill our screens day in and day out. A good practice is to schedule regular face-to-face meetings with clients – whether its once a quarter to go over planning initiatives or more often – perhaps in social situations. Grab a drink if the client seems like the type, and prove yourself a presence that exists outside of the email inbox.
Elevating a client relationship past the level of email creates human connection, and seeing each other as people makes client services all the more smooth. Congratulate clients on an award win. Adding a personal touch to the relationship such as a hand written Christmas card or an email about a work anniversary shows that you care, and enforces your position as the top of mind choice for your customers.