Gen Wise Perspective

Gen Y's perspective (pun intended) on our journey through work, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the tag “Client Relations”

Is the client always right?

Anyone who works in a services industry has probably heard the saying “the client [customer] is always right.” I understand why that saying exists—at the end of the day, they’re the ones paying you to do what they ask.

But aren’t they also paying for your service because you’re the “expert” on the subject matter? Sure, some would argue that they pay because they don’t have the time/resources to handle the job on their own. But then they could’ve hired their buddy Joe Schmoe to take the job off their hands instead of hiring a trained professional who specializes in the particular area of need.

That being said, when you think your client is flat-out wrong…how do you go about pushing back?

There are times when I receive instructions from a client that I absolutely disagree with. Sometimes they question something we’ve done and aren’t so nice about the way they word it, which immediately fires me up. That’s obviously not a good thing.

I of course start to take it personally, which my mom says is something I will learn to curb with age. I know I need to practice that now. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I’m being bluntly honest about myself in the hope that others might learn from my flaws. Another lesson I learned from my mom is that (hopefully) as I get older I will learn to let things go and develop a tougher skin. I would love to expedite that.

But I haven’t mastered it yet. And I hate being wrong. All of this is a bad combination for pushing back on a client, yet I have enough common sense to know that there’s a delicate way about addressing the situation.

So before doing anything I wanted to get a third-party opinion. I tweeted to my followers, asking what their stance is on pushing back on clients.

I received some great advice, but what resonated most was this comment by Paul Kluding: “Ok to do it, but go in w/motto: think 1st to understand, then be understood. They don’t just want “yes” men/women”

I swear it was one of those “lightbulb” moments. I get hung up on the small things such as the slightly unprofessional tone in emails when a client is questioning me, or the finer points of what they’re asking me to do that don’t make sense to me.

But why didn’t I ever just stop and think about why? What is driving the client to write this email? What is at stake for them?

In reality, their reasoning could be about an issue larger than the one at hand.

So instead of firing back an email that completely defended and justified my position (even if I could do this with ample facts and support), I sought to find the real pain point. Taking Paul’s advice, I wanted to first understand then clarify my point to be understood.

I simply asked why the client felt the way they did. Then I offered my advice on how I would like to handle the situation, while also pointing out that I realize there might be a side of the coin I just wasn’t seeing at this time.

I wanted to address the root of the problem. I wanted us to truly get on the same page. And you know what? We did. And I bet this issue won’t come up again, but it might have if I approached this differently.

I also believe this approach helped to further earn the client’s respect and builds trust in my judgment moving forward.

What do you think? What are your experiences with pushing back on clients? I’d love the perspective of others who have been at this a lot longer than me.

Why does PR get such a bum rap?

Those of us in the PR industry are constantly defending what we do. Not even because we need to justify the profession, but because so many people out there insist on bitching about their bad PR experiences. I have no doubt that these bad experiences exist, but please stop lumping all PR pros and agencies in the same category.

Not everyone is a stereotype, and I’m pretty sure none of the PR-haters out there would like it if we started throwing around stereotypes about their professions. Just saying.

So this morning when I saw my friend Jason Mollica’s blog post titled “An Attack on PR…again,” I thought: What did we “do” now?

Of course Jason was showing his PR solidarity. But I still had to read the article he was referring to so that I could hear the other side of the story. I’ll admit that I thought I was going to get really angry about some stupid accusations. Instead, I started to realize there are legitimate issues brought up in the article that occur between many PR agencies and clients—issues that lead to PR haters getting on their soapbox.

Why does PR get such a bum rap?

1) Forgetting to ask: Is PR right for me?

PR is not right for every organization. First, take time to understand what PR is (because many people don’t fully understand it but think they need it) and then decide if it’s the best way to promote your brand, product, service, event, etc.

If PR is the right approach, also consider: what type of PR? The particular instance in the article was restaurant PR. Well, that requires a very different strategy from the kind that I outline for my b-to-b technology clients.

Did this guy ever stop to consider what the best PR approach would be before he delved into searching for an agency? Yes, good reviews are key, but isn’t word of mouth the most important aspect of promoting a restaurant? People will tell their friends if the food, service and overall experience is good.

That being said, an agency that specializes in word of mouth and social media marketing would’ve probably been a good choice. This leads me into my next point…

2) Lack of research before choosing an agency

If you don’t do any research on the agency or its expertise, you could be WAY off base on who you’re hiring to handle your PR. Do they represent clients in your industry?

Does their expertise fit within your needs? Do their current clients get coverage in your target media outlets? If you need digital work done, does the agency have those capabilities?

Thorough research is necessary before you choose an agency, or you will probably turn into an angry client because your expectations will not be met. You can’t assume all PR is the same and all agencies are the same. If you do, then don’t blame the agency when the job isn’t up to your standards. Maybe you should’ve done your homework first.

3) Goals are not set or communicated properly

Define your goals and what PR success looks like before you start working with an agency. This way you can share those goals/expectations upfront so everyone is on the same page. Be clear about what you need from your PR agency because it’s different for each client. You can’t expect them to deliver results if they don’t know what those results are supposed to look like.

4) No thought put into the story you want to tell

Consider the story you want to tell about your brand and who you want that story told to. If you don’t, you might not realize until it’s too late that you really have no news hook and/or no audience.

Think to yourself: Ideally, how would I like my brand to be perceived? What would an ideal media placement look like? What type(s) of people do I want to know about my brand?

After all, you’re the expert on your brand. Don’t be afraid to tell the PR agency how you envision the story playing out.

5) Overly grandiose (and biased) ideas about what you’re trying to promote

Be objective. It’s not easy, but you really need to ask yourself: Is this something that people care about? Just because you think it’s newsworthy doesn’t mean the media does.

However, if there isn’t a news hook you can still find one.  I would suggest working with your agency on this: tell them what you consider the attributes and/or differentiators to be so they can come back to you with ideas on how to find your news hook.

6) Lack of collaboration with your PR agency

You can’t expect PR miracles to happen overnight. If you don’t bring anything to the table your PR agency can only do so much (which might not be anything if there aren’t raw materials to work with). Keep your agency informed of new initiatives BEFORE they happen, send all marketing/sales collateral to them, brainstorm ideas with them, be available for ad hoc interview requests etc. etc. It works best when it’s a two-way relationship.

In the defense of those complaining about PR, I realize not all agencies are easy to work with, creative and organized. They might not be asking the right questions either. But if you know what you want and you verbalize it, it will go a LONG way towards solving the problem.

What do you guys think? What did I miss?

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