When I talk to potential clients, I always explain that we’re looking to work with companies who want a PR partner — an extension of their team … not just a “vendor” to outsource tasks to. I take this partnership-level relationship seriously.
That said, I also realize it’s easy to talk about wanting to build strong partnerships … it’s much harder to actually do it.
I think treating the client as a partner — not just another client — is the first step toward establishing an open, trusting partnership. Treating clients as partners occurs in varying forms. In my mind, it looks something like this:
- providing honest feedback, even when it’s not always positive;
- offering proactive ideas and suggestions, even if those technically fall outside the bounds of our contract (and we don’t charge extra for those);
- being readily available via their preferred communication method — including texting, Skype, various IM platforms and, of course, the phone — beyond the typical workday;
- whenever possible, leveraging our personal networks to facilitate connections that often result in partnerships, leads, and mutually beneficial collaborations.
- … and more.
Even when a relationship starts off as a good partnership, sometimes circumstances change. For example, the client contact is changes, the company evolves resulting in different needs or expectations. Most of the time these shifts aren’t a huge deal and adjustments can be made to sustain the partnership; however, in rare cases the relationship just dissolves. If you sense that’s about to happen, it’s in your benefit to treat the client as a partner and providing that partner-level service. (Perhaps that’s the PR industry’s equivalent to “kill ’em with kindness.”) Even when you wish they’d just go away, continue delivering exceptional service. Bring your results to the table. If the relationship does come to an end, you can rest easy knowing you did everything in your power to salvage it and, if nothing else, you can be proud of the fact that you honored your personal commitment to high standards.
Photo credit: CIMMYT