Managing Client Relationships

You keep stalking the newspapers about news on them. You constantly check social media networks for any mentions about them. You are forever thinking about what to do next for them. You obsess. You try and think of what is it they want before they even know they want it. You ask them before doing anything. You plan and plan and plan. No, we are not talking about dating. This is about clients in the PR world.
One of the strongest tools to making a good communication strategy and stay ahead of the curve is ‘information’. Hence the various sources of information and our obsession to collate all of it to see a pattern if any. While these are all external sources, a key and integral part which is the other half comes from the client itself. A client will ensure there is a steady stream coming to you if they know you are there for them and trust you to think about what’s best for them…hence earning their respect. Here are a few things that you can do to  show them that very thing:
Communicate regularly:

Clients are the bread and butter of our PR world. But just as it is difficult to get in touch with the journalists it is also difficult to keep in touch with the client on a day to day basis. However, today it is a lot easier to stay in touch with them than it was 10 years ago. A face to face meeting is best. But let’s be realistic. It is not possible every day. Use technology to your advantage. Make use of email, chat, call, text, skype or simply whatsapp. It is necessary to communicate at-least once in a day with either the spokesperson or the marketing team members you directly report into to let them know about project news if any. If you have a team then it becomes a lot easier to spread out the communication touch points because it has to be a meaningful conversation and not just about what was his/her holiday like.

Meetings:
Face to face meetings are key for good communication. 
Make it a point to meet in person at least twice a monthfor the first three months till the client knows you and your team and starts to gain a comfortable level of trust. Even after you have reached a certain degree of comfort with the client team, the monthly meetings are a must.  While there is a lot technology can help you with, nothing beats a face to face meeting to make a personal connect. A lot of miscommunication can happen because the ‘tone’ of what is being written is often misinterpreted according to the person reading it and leads to angst on both ends. Once the client team meets and interacts with you in person they will know what to expect in an email and the intention. It will also give you a chance to talk about mundane and fun stuff giving them a peek at your personality.
Stay in touch with their industry:
You are the face of the client in the media world. Hence any defaming or crisis communication should be undertaken by you. You should hence be the go-to person for your client as well as events happening in the industry. Learn and share as much as you can so that whenever the client is looking for a PR solution you are the one who provides it. And it is a relevant and practical solution. Take the effort to understand their industry as much as you can. Talk to journalists, independent observersprofessors along with their research and department heads so that you have an overall perspective and will be able to analyse the information coming to you from news sources and catch trends. Keep your ear to the ground and get to know what stories are brewing in the pipeline and who is doing them. Steady and constant updates need to be within your grasp and knowledge base so that no news should be news to you. 

Build trust

Credibility, respect and trust are three factors that play a crucial role in cementing client relationships. There are various ups and downs in the media world and many stories come up that may be personal to the client or their company. In this situation be on the clients team. Listen to their grievances first and understand how they want the story to be pictured in the media. Since you will be updated about the media and the industry, you will be in a position to give them advice that is the best course of action for them. Even if it is tough love you need to dish it out there at that point. A client will invariably respect you more if you stand up for what you believe is right for them rather than just being a ‘yes-man’ and later expressing regret. Once they agree to it walk the talk and make it happen. Believe in yourself and the client will believe in you. The three factors will follow.