In a recent post from Kelli Matthew’s blog, external and internal client-PR professional relationships are discussed and seven suggestions are included on how to maximize mutually beneficial rapport. Mark McClennan of Schwartz Communications “Crossroads” blog also explores this topic with a Valentine’s Day twist, “moving forward from PR puppy love”, and encourages PR practitioners to make their relationships meaningful. I suppose I’d never thought of this relationship as anything more than professional discourse, an exchange of services for fees.
In comparing the two blogs to my own limited agency and client experience, I decided to analyze how I measure up to these tips for successful PR professional to client relationships. My current client moves slowly when it comes to acting on the PR resources that my team prepares for them. This is understandable because, as a non-profit, they have to be careful and make wise decisions about the publicity tactics in which they invest. Most of our PR work is preparing online media resources for our client: website features, Google ad space, blogs, etc. We want them to be not only available online but also internet savvy since many people will probably research their products and resources before purchasing them.
What ends up happening is that they are hesitant to jump on projects that my team has painstakingly prepared because we are in total belief that they are useful tools for what the organization wishes to accomplish. One thing that might contribute to a potential relationship problem is that we see ourselves as a separate entity from the organization rather than team players striving toward the same goal. As we work toward their goals we must understand that their goals are our goals and hopefully our methods will become their methods.
Kelli and Mark have some good suggestions on ways to succor this situation and most of them, if not all, deal with communication. Weird. And crazy since this is a communication-based practice.
The thing that made my little PR ears perk up was number 3 on Kelli’s blog: Seek a peer-to-peer relationship. This might prove difficult in my case because my client and my team aren’t peers. The PR team is a group of student interns and the client is a non-profit organization that has been doing what they do for decades. Kelli’s post suggests turning the project into a “joint venture environment” and showing the client that my team also has a vested interest in the results of the PR strategy. This makes sense, because, really, we do. We want our press releases and FAQ’s to get published so that when we’re looking for jobs, we can refer back to the work we’ve done. Our client wants publicity for their cause. These basic goals make our involvement in the project personal and ensure a healthy professional relationship as explored in Mark’s blog.
It was actually very clever. He uses somewhat cliched relationship jargon (ie. communication, commitment, compromise) and applied them to the professional relationships. I liked his point on commitment the best. He asserts that committing to both the project and the client are key because inattention and ignorance of the “little things” do not go unnoticed.
Lastly, I read an article this afternoon by Elizabeth Albrycht, Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research which said something that resonated with me and this subject in particular. The purpose of public relations is to foster trust between clients and their publics which is compounded from the trust of clients and their PR practitioner. The article also states that the measurement of a good relationship is gagued by how much each party is invested based on their engagement.
This is the conundrum of public relations. The success of a plan or strategy cannot be measured in the work itself but rather how the parties involved were influenced and engaged by the work.
The above mentioned article actually had some good things to say about social media and how to stimulate a client’s interest in it. I suggest a read-through for those interest. You can find it here.
*Image courtesy of http://www.derbigum.com