Ten Lessons I Learned from My Clients

By: Guest | June 30, 2011 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Heather Whaling.

In PR, we spend a lot of time teaching our clients.

We teach them how to speak in sound bites or how to assimilate into online communities. We explain how blogging can help achieve business goals, or why speaking opportunities matter.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I can learn from my clients — both good and bad. How often do we take stock of what we can learn from them?

Ten Lessons I Learned from My Clients:

  1. Build an army of CEOs and empower them to make decisions.
  2. There are no problems, only solutions. This is brilliant advice, and one of the golden rules, at Zaarly.
  3. Don’t implement a program until you understand what resources are needed and where they’ll come from.
  4. Talk less. Do more. Rob Fisher, director of marketing at Madison Electric Products is a perfect example of this. He is viewed as one of the best in his industry; however, outside the industry many people don’t realize just how smart he is.
  5. Establish and cultivate relationships with people at all levels of the org chart — not just the ones at the top.
  6. Don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that you forget to periodically take a step back to assess what’s working and what’s not.
  7. Celebrate successes. My career started in politics. Volunteers and staffers appreciated working for campaign managers who recognized “wins” and accomplishing milestones along the way. That idea should carry over to the business world, too. Don’t get so lost in the forest that you forget to celebrate successes.
  8. Know what you’re good at, and stick to that. Stop trying to be everything to everyone.
  9. While underselling and overdelivering is a good start, realistically managing expectations is even better. Sarah Evans wrote a post about managing expectations last year … good advice for us all to follow!
  10. The right action produces the right result. (<– That one’s actually from my dad, not a client, but good advice nonetheless!)

What lessons have you learned from your clients (or bosses)?

Heather Whaling is president of Geben Communications. She helps nonprofits and small businesses integrate digital and traditional communication strategies. Named one of the top 30 PR experts to follow on Twitter, Heather co-moderates the popular #pr20chat, a weekly exploration of technology’s influence on PR. You can connect with her on her blog.

  • MatthewRusso

    @prtini Nice article!


    @prtini My favorite (and most important lesson) #8 – Know what you’re good at, and stick to that.

  • torreymcgraw

    Cultivating relationships in all parts of the org chart is a big miss for a lot of us. I was having a conversation with Mari of Foiled Cupcakes and she mentioned how speaking with exec admins were vital to the growth of her company.

    Similarly in lobbying/government relations, the decisions are often made by the legislative aide or chief of staff and not the elected official.

    Good reminders, Heather. Thanks for the platform, Gini

  • Narciso17

    Nice Piece, Heather! The other thing I’d add is to be ready to walk away when things just aren’t gelling. Too often we try to make things work when it’s just a plain square-peg-in-a-round-hole kind of situation.

    You end up walking away with less stress and MUCH MORE respect for one another…even if it is a decision that no one likes at first.

    ~ Narciso Tovar

    Big Noise Communications


  • Good lessons and 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 7 10 really resonate w/ me. No whining or excuses allowed, give me an option and a solution to get it going in the right direction.

    Also, I see way too often people trying to make one size fit all. Allow people to work to their strengths and even get better at that and minimize their weak spots.

    Good list and thanks for sharing at the Spin Sucks crib.

  • Excellent list.

    I’d add one – Put your team first and make the time and find the money to continue educating and training them and yourself. Your people are the most important assets and resources. If you have to pick between your team and a client – the team wins.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    I have to agree, Heather , especially with the first trait you mentioned. It’s a bias on my part . Thanks for the share.

  • ginidietrich

    @MichaelBowers Were your ears burning yesterday?

  • Elliottmarkc

    Great list! RT @prtini Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from clients: What would you add to the list?

  • I’ve learned more opportunities to say thank you. I’m big on gratitude, but once I venture outside the written word, so much of my life takes place inside my head that I make myself believe I’ve thanked someone and haven’t.

    My newest client before last used to say to people in his team “thank you for the effort” when they failed. I noticed that the next time they worked with even more passion. So I asked one of them why and he said it was because he knew he was appreciated even if he fell short. Which made him never want to fall short.

    Great reminders – thank you Heather!

  • John_Trader1

    Great list from prtini , all of these are such simple reminders yet have such powerful impact.

    One that I would add is “All growth in life comes from when you step outside your comfort zone.” This may be one of the hardest ones to remember because we all get caught up in our routines and frequently forget that stepping outside of our zone is the only way we can identify areas that we need to improve on. Self growth should be the equivalent of picking away at a glacier each day with an ice pick. It’s a slow, arduous process and you may never finish but you attack it little by little each day in bite sized chunks and make it easier to accomplish.

  • MichaelBowers

    @ginidietrich I wondered where that burning was coming from yesterday

  • ginidietrich

    @MichaelBowers it was from me and @nateriggs

  • Leon

    G’Day Heather,

    Thanks for the excellent advice. I think that no.8 is paticularly pertinent in web marketing.

    When i first started in business over 30 years ago, I read somewhere, “Do only those things to which you bring a unique perspective. Buy everything else around the corner.”

    It was good advice then and still is. There is one other thing I’d like to add.

    “Make sure you have fun”.



  • MichaelBowers

    @ginidietrich Committed to getting you here next year for @ohgrowthsummit. Saw the @nateriggs video. I can get you a Reds shirt to wear too

  • smmanley

    Great article; I took this concept a few weeks ago in my blog: 13 Lessons Learned in 13 Years.

  • stevegasser

    @smmanley Have a great weekend!

  • smmanley

    @stevegasser Back at you, I think my work is “done” for the week. Reading books, lots of books over the holiday 🙂

  • ginidietrich

    @MichaelBowers Um, no thanks on the shirt. I like my Cubs shirt. 🙂

  • prtini

    @tamcdonald No problems, only solutions is one of my favorites, too! Thanks for sharing the post.

  • tamcdonald

    @prtini I work for @Zaarly in Chicago, so I’m very familiar with it. Learned it long ago and it has helped me keep a positive attitude.

  • girlygrizzly

    Good lessons to learn and be reminded of! Thanks for this, Heather and Gini. “The right action produces the right result.” My favorite! What I strive for, everyday, in any of my hats. Thanks again. ~Amber-Lee

  • prtini

    @KeithSpeers @nateriggs hope you’re both having a good weekend. Thanks for sharing the @SpinSucks post!

  • marccusters

    @Milaspage Mila, Thank you for the RT!

  • JkretchTester01

    Testing regular post.

  • JkretchTester01

    Testing regular post + Twitter

  • NancyM.

    ‘Establish and cultivate relationships with people at all levels of the org chart — not just the ones at the top.’ This point is very true. Working as a journalist, I got my best leads and inside information from people at the bottom of the chain. You should never underestimate people or limit your network to those in top positions.