By Chris Blake | August 5, 2019

Being a good PR agency professional requires mastering a great variety of skills. Knowing how to write, research, communicate, strategize, build relationships and generate creative ideas are among the most important. Master these talents, and you’ll go certainly go far.

But it could be argued that there’s one day-to-day function that even the best PR professionals will struggle with throughout their careers despite having fine-tuned all the requisite skills: client relations. Why? Because every client is different. What may be enough for one client won’t nearly be enough for the next. Some clients may be drawn to your personality right away; others may be initially turned off by it. Whatever the challenge may be, it’s up to the agency PR professional to develop a collaborative working client relationship that produces for the both your firm and the client organization.  

So what can you do to ensure a strong working relationships with clients?

Here are a few tips:

10. Set expectations right off the bat:

Probably the best way to disappoint a client is to let them walk into the partnership with unrealistic expectations. It’s your job as a PR professional to deliver results, but you also need to set achievable goals and realistic timelines.

9. Tell them what you need:

Our core job as PR professionals is to produce results. Those in the PR world know results don’t magically “happen.” But sometimes that’s exactly what clients expect. Serving clients means doing the best with what’s been given but you’re also doing them a disservice if you’re not educating them on all the elements that are required for a desired outcome. 

8. Be honest: 

Good client relations begins with honesty. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Don’t claim to know all the right moves. You don’t, and your client either knows that already or soon will. 

7. Don’t be a pushover:

The customer may always be right, but you need to communicate your limits and stay the course when it comes to executing on your PR strategy. Giving in to constant pushing or knee-jerk reprioritizing means overextending yourself and working without a vision. You’ll risk not only jeopardizing the program’s success, but the shift in energy and resources could impact the success of your other client programs—not to mention your own mental health. Be nimble, but stay true to the plans and performance levels originally agreed upon unless there’s a real change in strategy or objectives. 

6. Check in:

You can’t always assume an account is running smoothly or that the client is happy. Periodical check-ins with the client will help you avoid being blindsided later by trouble you didn’t know was brewing.

5. Don’t try too hard to be a friend:

Of course, close collaborations in client/agency relationships are key. Often the mutual respect that evolves leads to genuine friendship. But don’t force it. And don’t think your shared interest in baseball or wine will make a client see past poor results. 

4. Show clients they come first—even when they don’t:

Let’s face it. Your client contacts don’t always come first. They’re just one of many constituents a PR pro must serve, and all of them—reporters, bloggers, analysts, investors, customers, communities, etc.—will demand things of you at any given time. Of course, serving all these stakeholders, and serving them well, is ultimately in the client’s best interest, but clients won’t always see it that way. So, be sure to be as attentive and responsive to your clients as possible, and when you can’t, let them know why it’s in their organization’s best interest.

3. Communicate more during the dry spells

Every PR program hits a snag now and then. This is the time to try new things, but just as importantly, to work closely with the client in brainstorming and implementing new ideas. The last thing you want is to appear complacent or committed to a plan that just isn’t working. Clients will generally stick with you during the lean times as long as they understand and are a part of all that you’re doing to get the program back on track.

2. Network, network, network

No PR pro should work in a vacuum, and clients should see that. Make sure you are going to PR and other industry-related conferences and getting to know other PR, marketing and social media thinkers and doers. Truly get to know, as best as you can, the reporters, bloggers and analysts you’re pitching. Clients want to know you’re connected and have numerous relationships to turn to for ideas, feedback or to call in a favor. So make sure you have them.

1. If you’re doing a good job, know it:

Unfortunately, there are the occasional clients who will keep raising the bar and criticizing your work, because they feel it’s the best way to get your best. Eventually, this almost always leads to the PR professional feeling demoralized and burned out, which of course prompts the client to come down on you even more. While it’s rarely advisable to remove yourself from an account (or resign it completely), sometimes it’s your only option. In my experience, the people who think they’re not doing a good enough job are usually the most committed and talented of the bunch. Don’t let a bad client experience convince you that you’re not cut out to be the great PR pro that you are. You can’t be the right fit for all of the people all of the time.