We are in the business of communications, but repeatedly, I hear stories of client communication gone wrong. To be successful as a PR pro, it’s not enough to just be able to get in front of and speak effectively with your organization’s target customers. You need to apply those same skills to your internal and external clients, as well.
When you begin a new job or begin working with a new client, how much time do you spend:
- Creating buyer personas for their target market?
- Painstakingly crafting messaging?
- Building content with clear calls-to-action?
- Developing a consistent and clear communications strategy?
And then how much time do you spend thinking about the same things regarding your internal or external clients?
Client communication can’t be an afterthought. It has to be your top priority from the very first interaction.
Build Client Personas
Every client is different because every human is different. Just like consumers, while there might be certain trends (pain points, needs, wants) that track across all clients, each one is unique.
Therefore, just as you’d create an individual communications strategy for every product or service you promote, you need to do the same for client communication.
You need your own “client personas.”
Last week, we discussed the 11 questions to ask clients, which will help you get a sense of who they are as people and as professionals. These are a great start to building your client personas.
Additionally, you should treat each interaction with a client as an opportunity to learn more about who they are and how they think.
If you do this right, the longer your work with them, the more in tune you’ll be—and in turn, the more successful your relationship.
Client Communication Requires the Entire Team
In most cases, there will be one or two main point people for clients. While other team members might interact with them regularly, there is one person who leads the account and is the client’s go-to. That person will naturally be more in sync with the client and his/her individual needs and style.
It is very important this not be kept as exclusive information. It’s that person’s responsibility to keep the rest of the team updated, not just on the business side of the account and client interaction, but on the personal side as well.
This is within reason, and there will sometimes be information that needs to be kept confidential. But for the most part, the client manager needs to transmit personal and interpersonal information, just as they do tasks and needs.
During our staff meetings, we have time for each account lead to fill in our entire team on all aspects of the client account. This includes things the client is struggling with, concerns or fears they have, and even internal organizational issues they might be fighting through.
This information allows our team to be on the same page when executing strategy or supporting the client through obstacles.
These regular check-ins ensure we’re all on the same page, and any one of us can step in when the account lead is out of the office.
Coordinate Style for Maximum Efficiency
You might have a process about doing things. And that’s great. You might organize meetings in a certain way. Or label documents with a particular process. You might have a project management protocol that works best for you.
And by no means should you abandon the process and ‘re-invent’ the wheel for each client. But you do need to make sure your process integrates effectively with theirs. Otherwise, you miss the point.
The most effective process in the world is only that way if it works for both sides. Be willing to have some flexibility in how you do things.
For example, we have one client who is really particular about how they label documents. It’s kind of silly, but it drives them crazy if documents are not labeled the way they want them. We work within that structure.
Likewise, we generally will use Zoom for our video meetings, but some of our clients prefer Google Meet.
Part of effective client communication is understanding what part of the process is crucial, and what can be adjusted.
The Rules of Communication Still Apply
Let’s say you want to message something to a consumer. How would you go about it? Most likely you’d follow a pattern that looked something like this:
- Here are three points I want to get across.
- And more detail about each of those points.
- Here is a brief review of points again.
Pretty typical, right?
Yet this—and similar basic communications processes—often go out the window during client communication. A PR pro gets on a call:
- Rambles in a bit of an unorganized manner about a topic.
- Only gives part of the information needed to make the discussion cohesive due to the curse of knowledge.
- Jumps to a new topic without the client understanding purpose or what they are supposed to do.
The client leaves the call not really sure what is happening, why, what they are supposed to do, or what the PR team is doing. Not the best strategy for successful client partnerships or satisfied clients.
This is just one example, of many ways this can occur. In general, make sure the rules you apply to marketing communications you also use in client communication.
Client Communication is Crucial to Your Success
It’s not a nice to have, it’s as vital as anything else you do as part of your job. In fact, I’d argue it’s the most important type of communication you do as a PR pro.
Make it your expertise and your relationships will grow.
To discuss client communications and relationships in further depth, join us in the Spin Sucks Community.
It’s a community full of crazy smart professionals. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s smart…and you might just learn a thing or two from your peers. I’ll see you next week!