How to hit the ground running with a new client
Hooray, you’ve landed a new client!
Whether you work at an agency, a boutique firm or on your own as a consultant, this is great news.
But, once you’ve come down from the “high” of winning the business, the reality sets in. Now what? How do you get off on the right foot in this brand new relationship?
Sure, you’ll have a kickoff meeting, but beyond the obvious, there are some things to know to help you launch this partnership on a positive note. Don’t be that PR consultant or agency who doesn’t pay attention to the subtleties of getting to know your new client.
Here are eight suggestions on what to do—and not to do—as you begin this journey.
1. Tread lightly until you get to know the personalities
When you’re in that “getting to know you” stage, exercise caution when it comes to joking around.
Some clients have a sense of humor—others don’t. Save the silliness, unless you're sure it will fly. Do it too soon, and it can go one of two ways--either you’ll get along famously, OR, you’ll crash and burn.
So, until you know if your brand new client likes to kid around, use care.
2. Find out how they like to communicate
Some clients are texters. Others prefer email. And, there are those who like to pick up the phone to call you. It's up to you to learn—and adapt—to their style.
Just like reporters, they have their preferences on how they want to communicate with you. If you ask up front, you’ll be better prepared to work with them in the way that’s most effective.
3. Ask how often they expect you to check in or report your progress
Some clients want a weekly call or update. Others seem not to care if they ever get an actual report, as long as there are results. Expectations can vary from client to client, so it’s important to know their preferences.
Another note here: When you do send a report, go the extra mile to customize it according to their needs. Some value certain metrics over others. Ask what’s most important to them.
4. Do your research
Spend some time not only getting to know the client in person but also researching their competitors and reading up on the latest industry trends.
You’ve probably done some of this in the “winning the business” stage, and the client will certainly share materials they feel are relevant. But, it’s a good idea to go beyond what they provide to do your own research.
Look to see who’s covering their competitors and the trends, as well. This can be helpful as you build a media list for the client and consider story angles to pitch.
5. Be proactive
Yes, they may have hired you for a specific project, but you’d be remiss not to mention things that come to your attention that may need to be addressed.
For example, you’re doing some research on their site and notice some typos or outdated information. Bring this to their attention so it can be corrected. Don’t assume they know. Add value beyond what you were hired to do.
And, always try to anticipate needs before they come up so you can prepare accordingly. If you think ahead, you can help the client be ready for what’s coming.
6. Don’t be afraid to tell them no
Once the dust has settled, while it’s not time to completely ditch the niceties, you do need to assume your role as the PR expert.
Some clients are open to feedback on their ideas, whether it’s positive or negative. Others view it less favorably. Either way, they hired you for your expertise. So, if they float an idea that’s less than stellar, it’s OK to deliver the bad news—in a professional manner.
Don’t just tell them yes, no matter what they send your way. Sometimes, they need a little education on what works—and what doesn’t.
7. Speak up with your questions
Asking questions with a new client isn’t a sign of weakness (despite what some may think). PR isn’t magic. It takes both the client and the PR partner to actively participate in the process.
Emphasize that this is a relationship—a partnership. Remember that you can’t know everything the client knows, so it’s OK to ask questions. This is how we learn.
8. Listen more than you talk
Don’t be a PR pro who does ALL the talking.
Yes, there are those in the PR industry (as in any industry) who like to pontificate on any number of topics. But, listening can be as important as proving what you know.
A good listener will pick up on that story idea that may be hiding in the salesperson’s tale of their latest visit to check in with a customer or in the CEO telling you about her hobby as a beekeeper. You may just never know if you don’t listen.
In a service business like PR, we have to remember that the customer comes first. Taking it slow when getting to know your clients and giving some forethought to your actions and words can do wonders to help forge a bond that will yield results on both sides of the equation.
How do you hit the ground running with new clients?
You'll find Michelle Messenger Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and award-winning writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, Spin Sucks, CIO, Upwork, Freelancers Union, SheKnows, CommProBiz and others. She was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica. Michelle was also recently appointed to the board of Women in PR USA.
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