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What great PR client management looks like

The essence of the service that PR and influence provides is that we help clients achieve their business objectives. In this context, the relationship with the client is fundamental.

Client management is a specialised field within the PR industry, but every PR professional is working to deliver for clients, so we all must understand the principles of PR client relations.

Why relationship management is important in public relations

Relationship management requires understanding the client, how they prefer to communicate - by email, by text, by phone, videoconference or one-on-one? Good client management means fielding the right members of your teams for the right meetings, deploying senior and developing staffers at the right moments.

Good PR client managers need to understand the client, their organisation, and their industry; their business, sector and communications objectives; and what messages they need to land.

Clarify what you expect from each other up front. Document this through contracts, status and contact reports and engagement records to avoid misunderstandings. Clarify deadlines and responsibility, then report on progress at weekly status meetings. Set up quarterly strategic meetings on broader objectives.

Account hygiene means aligning teams and communications with all client stakeholders. Holding statements and contingency plans should be put in place for any potential issues.

Show that your team is engaged and passionate about the client. Respond to emails quickly, even if just to acknowledge receipt. Make the client feel they’re important by staying ahead of them on proactive ideas. Rather under-promise and overdeliver on deadlines. Manage expectations and outputs.

If client requests are unrealistic, manage that discussion by explaining that one can’t produce quality on unreasonable deadlines. Deploy people who have rapport with the client and can be assertive with these discussions. Rather push back early to ensure quality and manage expectations.

The importance of PR Planning

The PR planning phase is where we establish a robust PR & Comms plan that works with the client’s business and their growth ambitions. Ensure KPIs are clear and allow 12-18 months to deliver.

The correct planning also requires putting the right people on the business – whether this means assigning team members who are passionate about the client, or employing new staff. Passionate people will be able to be proactive in guiding the client with new ideas and opportunities.

Build trust with your client. In an atmosphere of mutual trust, anything is possible. Here are some principles to guide your client relationships:

  • Be You You have unique skills and qualities, whether you’re a junior or a senior member of staff. You were hired for who you are and what you know, so work to the best of your abilities, and look to grow from there.
  • Be Professional Be the expert you are, for both clients and colleagues. Look to come across as a knowledgeable person who is pleasant to deal with. You can be personal in your relations with clients, but don’t be too relaxed and don’t share private details about yourself or the company.
  • Be The Expectations Firstly, be aware of the expectations on you, from both colleagues and clients, then do your best to meet them.
  • Be More Look to exceed the expectations of colleagues and clients. The sky's the limit.
  • Be Generous Share your thoughts with colleagues and clients. Knowledge and ideas grow bigger when shared.
  • Be Humble Humility is the attitude of a person who knows they need help, who appreciates help from others, and who willingly supports others. Be that person.
  • Be Available Always be available if a client or a colleague needs you.
  • Be The Team You are not alone. Always draw on the support and expertise of your team to better serve your client.
  • Be The Media Know how media and influencers operate and what makes a good story or angle of interest. Always work on improving and diversifying your media network. Let your client know that your media and influencer contacts are always just a text away.
  • Be Your Brand You are part of a large, diverse organisation. Get to know it and represent it well.

Thanks so much to Joanna Oosthuizen, CEO Public Relations & Influence EMEA; and chief communications officer, EMEA for Ogilvy for writing this introduction to client management in PR for us, we really appreciate it.

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