Your Client Hates You and You Don’t Even Know itBy Aly Saxe

Okay, “hate” is a strong word, but plenty of clients are in the habit of making silent assessments where they evaluate PR agencies without providing feedback.

Maybe you read the AdAge article, “Your Agency Hates You and You Don’t Even Know It.

If you haven’t, and you’re client side (or agency side and want a good laugh, followed by a good cry), check it out. When I read this, I thought, “Self, the reverse is true too. Let’s explore that.”

If you’re guilty of any of the below behaviors, it’s a safe bet your client has a few bones to pick with you.

The Client is On a “Need to Know” Basis

You may think your client is too busy to care about what you’re working on day-to-day, but I can guarantee they want to stay informed at some level.

This doesn’t mean pestering them with constant emails and inviting them into Basecamp with you (though that can have it’s benefits).

It simply means keeping them informed, without being asked, even when you think nothing is worth sharing.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming your client inherently trusts you’re going to bat for them every day.

You have to show them, repeatedly.

In addition to proactively reporting (more on status reports below), take measures to be able to answer the clients’ questions on the spot.

There’s nothing worse for the client than hearing from their account manager, “I don’t know, I’ll have to check with the team and get back to you.”

Time = wasted. Opportunities = lost. Client = frustrated.

And when you experience failure? Be open about it.

Explain what happened and why and what you learned.

Leaders don’t expect their PR firm to be miracle workers, but they do expect them to be transparent and committed.

Not Measuring the Right Stuff

Here’s something every client wants: Data.

They want numbers, benchmarks, percentages, and results.

Saying that a campaign “did really well” doesn’t tell them anything.

They want to know how well it did in the context of other campaigns, how the PR affected lead generation, and revenue, or whatever their business objectives are.

If you’re not already measuring PR performance with rulers that line up to business objectives, it’s time to get serious.

Pro tip: Don’t try to do this alone. Not only will you need the right PR tools, you’ll also want to work with other teams handling sales, social media and digital marketing to provide an integrated picture of your results. 

Lazy Reporting

When I was running an agency, my team occasionally got lazy on reporting.

I’m not proud of this.

I came back from maternity leave once to find out they hadn’t issued our monthly status reports to clients in three months.

Gut Punch.

This is a systemic problem I now see everywhere.

I talk to agencies every day that say they WANT to report more but they can’t find the time, or they can’t get their team on board, or they just don’t know how to create reports that make their clients happy.

PR reporting doesn’t have to be difficult, but it must be a priority.

PR teams that skip this step or get lazy about it are putting themselves in a world of hate with their clients.

Few companies today aren’t data driven, which means gone are the days that you get to keep the client based on nothing more than the feel goods.

When my agency was reporting diligently, we issued monthly status reports.

They included activities such as the following with customizations per each client (you can get a template to create and mange PR status reports here):

  • Media relations activity. Who we pitched, which campaigns, the results, and success rates per campaign.
  • Opportunities. Awards and speaker abstracts we submitted, and the status of each, new editorial and event opportunities with deadlines, costs and other decision-making details
  • Social media engagement. Planned social posts, net new followers, shares, comments, etc.

Also important: Translate your results into useful insights.

So your byline article was a hit on social media—great. How did it actually advance the cause? How did your campaign results connect to lead generation or sales revenue? What did you learn from the brand audience and how can leaders and other teams benefit from those lessons?

The client wants to know and they don’t want to have to ask you for it.

Poor Internal Communication

Here’s something almost every client has experienced.

They meet with the account director and discuss a new direction in messaging or a change at the company.

Two weeks later, they meet with content developers and find they know nothing of the changes—so they’re forced to repeat themselves.

A few days later, they have a call with the agency owner and have to have the same conversation again.

Not only is this enormously irritating, it’s a waste of valuable time.

As soon as anyone in the agency acquires account information, they should communicate that across the team.

While we’re on the topic of communication, clients hate having to ask for things.

The best PR teams are the ones that learn to anticipate their client’s questions and proactively give the answers.

Regular meetings are good (but not too many). Calls to check in are good (but not too many).

In other words, be transparent without being pesky and you’ll be loved in return.

Lack of Accountability

Plenty of PR pros execute on their deliverables and feel they’ve done their job, but there’s another side to that coin and that’s holding themselves accountable for the results.

Instead of making excuses, clients want to see the agency own both successes and failures and explain the factors behind them, instead of making excuses.

One way agency leaders can foster that kind of culture? By ensuring individual team members understand what they’re responsible for and then holding them accountable, so that every facet of a campaign is handled appropriately.

Recognize yourself in any of the above mistakes?

T’is okay.

Clients, as it turns out, are humans just like us and are forgiving when they see corrections being made.

As long as they know you’re working hard on their behalf, you’ll be in good shape.

Aly Saxe

Aly Saxe is the founder and CEO of Iris, software for agencies and in-house PR teams. She founded Ubiquity Public Relations, an agency representing high-growth B2B tech startups, in 2007.

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