When PR agencies experience “revolving door” client relationships, there are several reasons that go beyond quality of service. With all things being equal that the agency is doing a good job, ill will can still sprout and grow quickly, if service executives aren’t paying attention. Here are a few tips that will preserve client goodwill and ensure enduring relationships:
- Call the client at least once a week or more frequently. There is no substitute for face time. One PR colleague took on a new partner and learned the hard way that she was averse to talking with clients, despite his insistence of a weekly call. The partnership didn’t last.
- If your policy is not to issue a formal monthly or bi-monthly written PR activity report, call the client frequently with updates. Staying in touch is critical, and there’s no substitute for the PR professional’s voice. Video conferencing saves money and still gives you face time.
- Honor your promises to clients; we learned the hard way when we accepted a project, and extenuating circumstances, or so we thought, short-circuited our timeline and we were late with the deliverables.
- Create a PR plan and timeline that shows your client exactly what you’ll be doing. Have the client buy into the plan, and once it’s the way you both want it, both of you should sign it. Granted, it’s only a framework, subject to change as opportunities dictate, but it clearly delineates what activities you’ll provide, what is outside the scope of what you’re hired to do, and cost.
- When you pitch a new account, avoid word-bloat in the proposal. The number of words doesn’t substitute for “meat and potatoes,” including creativity, strategy, and demonstrable capabilities that make you a stand-out and better for the job than your competitors. Use action verbs, good descriptive language, and above all, create a picture for the prospective client that “shows, not tells.”
- Don’t be afraid to disagree with your client on media relations or other aspects of the public relations process. Your client is paying for your expertise. Still, there’s a point at which you don’t argue, and, unless your client is asking something that’s unethical, unprofessional, or illegal, accept it and move on.
- Keep time sheets, in case your clients have questions about how you’ve spent the PR activity time they’ve bought from you. This serves another purpose: if you’re putting in hours that eclipse the PR fee and eroding your profit, then you’ll have a case for going back to ask for more fee. The other alternative, especially if you’re on a retainer, is to explain that you must draw back on services and will be glad to roll them over until the following month.
- Be aware that in this day of tight budgets and bottom line mentality, many clients don’t like charges for expenses, preferring that they’re charged one fee that includes expenses. This is particularly prevalent in the travel and tourism industry, right now, and it’s often a hardship for the agency.
- Created a plan for quantifying the impact of your PR programs – Measure Your Successes. Your clients are interested in results, and by setting benchmarks and goals, you show them return on investment.