31 January 2011

Working hard for clients

As public relations students, we are not always taught the little things that will help us be successful professionals when we graduate. Clubs outside the classroom, like PRSSA, are meant to help students grow beyond what the rest of our peers have learned. Just a few weeks ago in my COM 353 class (Problems in PR) we had a speaker come talk to us about what it is like working at an agency. Bob Dearing, President of HAAN Marketing + Communications, gave us a much needed agency guide including all of the things we should do when working with a client. His presentation was titled '20 Tips for Becoming Your Client's Consigliere'. Now before I go on, I think it is important to understand what exactly a Consigliere is, because I sure did not have a clue. The word comes from the famous movie "The Godfather" and to put it simply means to be a trusted adviser or counselor. The advice that Bob offered to our small public relations class made me realize one thing - Never underestimate what you can learn in the classroom.
These are the tips, along with side notes, that will help every single one of us be better public relations professionals now and in the future.

1)Client relations are like dating/marriage relations. Treat them that way. (Give them time to nurture and grow.)
2)Ask questions. Listen to the answers. (I once heard that if you ask where the bathroom is on the first day on the job, it is perfectly appropriate. Asking on the second day, makes it a dumb question.)
3) Know your audience. (Who are you talking to? And also realize where you are in your relationship with the client.)
4) Be honest. (This is the most important. Know that honesty gets you much farther in life.)
5) Stay calm. Avoid drama. (If you panic, it will in turn make your client panic. It is your job to make the client confident in what you and your team are doing.)
6) Only fight winnable battles. The one who cares the most wins. (What is the big picture? If it is not the most important thing, let it go.)
7) Be prepared. (Always. Do background research on the client and know who they compete with.)
8) Provide valuable ideas and insights. (If you research, you can collect this information. Outside views can be a good thing.)
9) Determine the decision-maker. (You need to know who ultimately makes the calls. If you do a ton of work and only get it approved by John Doe, then come to find out he has someone above him that makes the final decision, your whole proposal might be denied.)
10) Establish a single point of contact between you and your client. (You need someone who can filter all the other comments you might hear into one, concise comment.)
11) Go to bat for your client. (You have to be able to speak up for your client. You need to represent the client to your agency and your agency to your client.)
12) Hit your dates. (Make sure your whole team takes dates very seriously. If clients miss their dates you have given them, it may not be your fault, but it is your problem.)
13) Stay on budget. (You need to talk to them about what budget they are on and make sure you stay in those numbers. Give them amounts on paper and keep them updated.)
14) Don't worry about rewards. Worry about results. (Make sure you can deliver functional work to your client.)
15) Put it in writing. (Estimates, proposals, creative briefs... put it all in writing.)
16) Know your team. (There are always multiple ways to get things done. Know how your team can execute the solution in the best way possible.)
17) Keep your personal mistakes to a minimum. (Everyone is human, but you really need to keep the mistakes to a small number.)
18) Beware of technology. (Form a good relationship by taking extra time to use face-to-face communication instead of relying solely on technology.)
19) Turn off your cell phone ringer. (Do not answer your phone in a meeting, and if you have to, let the others know beforehand that something important might come in.) *This one is not just for professional meetings, it includes PRSSA meetings also.
20) Don't let your social life compromise your professional life. (Facebook should be kept on private if you use it for personal use. If you use twitter to connect with professionals, keep it professional. The internet is seen by nearly everybody now, do not let it affect you.)

I know that was a ton of information for one blog, but I felt it was so helpful. Please take all of these tips to heart and go out into the professional business world confident that you can become a trusted adviser to your clients.

Again, thank you so much to Bob Dearing of HAAN Marketing+Communication for these 20 tips of becoming a consigliere.