8 qualities of clients you know you want to work with
As a PR pro, there are opportunities to work with many different types of clients. Large enterprise clients. Smaller startup clients. Nonprofit clients. Clients in various industries.
No matter the size or industry, as those of us in public relations know, there are clients who stand out from the rest.
Clients who truly “get it,” and value us—and what we can do for them. Those are the ones we dream about.
Often, dreams don’t turn into reality, but if we had our druthers, here are some qualities that stand out when evaluating potential clients.
1. A willingness to drop everything and make PR a priority
While media relations plays an important role in public relations, opportunities for coverage are growing scarcer. So, when a media opportunity does come along, the client needs to be willing to make this a priority.
Cameron Craig, head of global communications for Polycom, says that when he worked with Apple, “Executives prioritized PR. If we called or interrupted a meeting, they knew it was important.”
This type of responsiveness makes a difference. Especially with smaller companies, if journalists don’t get a timely response, they’re likely to move on to the next source. Clients who understand this will be more successful.
2. Trusting your expertise
How many times have you started to work with a new client, only to realize that he or she may not trust you as much as you assumed they would? When they hire an expert, they should trust that expert to carry out their responsibilities.
Of course, there may be a need to prove yourself initially -- but that shouldn’t be taken to an extreme. If the client doesn’t have a basic level of trust and refuses to listen to your counsel, it will be tough to get results.
3. Appreciating what PR can do for them
PR is powerful. For example, earned media is one of the most powerful ways to market a company, product or service.
When a publication writes about you and includes a link to your site, that builds authority, says Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media. Authority increases the likelihood that anything on your site will rank, meaning that PR pros can have a major impact on a company’s search rankings.
4. A willingness to learn what they don’t know about PR
Many times, clients who hire a PR pro don’t know a lot about PR themselves. That’s perfectly OK. But, when they come in with a know-it-all attitude, it can be difficult to make that relationship work.
Your job is to deliver the education they need as you go. Their job is to stay open to what you have to teach them.
I hear many PR pros (let’s face it, pros in every field) complain about how long it takes to get answers from clients. “Oh, I’m just waiting for Mary to reply to my email to give me the green light,” or, “I sent this to Joe a week ago, followed up with a call and still haven’t heard back. I’m stuck until he responds.”
Ugh. This can slow down making any progress. While it may not always scream its way to the top of their to-do lists, wise clients try to make PR a priority -- that is, they shouldn’t keep their PR pro waiting forever for a reply.
The flow of information should go both ways.
The client needs to keep the PR pro in the loop when he or she has information to share. It’s hard to operate and be successful when you don’t have all the facts. Good clients will remember to copy their PR pro on email that may pertain to what they’re working on. They’ll also share articles on the industry that may be helpful to the public relations team.
7. A sense of humor
Now, this may not matter to everyone -- but trust me, it can make a difference. Sure, you want the client to take PR seriously and, of course, you want to them to behave professionally. But if you can’t share a laugh every once in a while, the gig won’t be nearly as much fun.
8. Appreciation for you
Sometimes, clients will show their appreciation for you in ways you didn’t expect.
They’ll go above and beyond to include you in their holiday parties, send you thank you notes or even give you a gift. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, be grateful. You know they’re thinking of you and truly value what you bring to their business—and it can feel pretty great.
While not every client is perfect, finding a good fit can make the relationship more successful -- and it sure can make the journey more enjoyable.
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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