7 Things PR Firms Value in their Clients

7At a PR conference, I listened as other PR professionals bemoaned their experiences with “bad clients.”  Some were horrendous—egregious breaches of integrity, ethics and finances.  Truthfully, it’s probably easy for a client to know they’ve landed on the “naughty list” when they’ve intentionally lied, been rude or not paid their PR providers.

But the heft of the conversation centered around situations where clients probably didn’t even know that their behavior was damaging to the “marriage.”  Like the client who finally responded to requests for feedback on website content only after five emails and three voice messages…and no, he was not on vacation!

PR professionals can look at a lot of project issues—tight timelines, squeaky budgets, soft deliverables and more—as fun challenges.  But we all fear the bad client!

Clients pay good money and, in return, should receive great service—no doubt about it!  On the other side of the pendulum swing, PR practitioners, who invest their most precious commodities—time and thinking—into their work, should be able to expect clients/client contacts to:

1.  Provide timely feedback and approvals

Projects are always scoped and managed to meet clients’ mission-critical deadlines.  At any firm, finite resources are allocated to multiple clients. Delays in feedback and approvals not only put kinks in your project and timeline, they have the potential to impact work being done for other clients.

2. Be fully engaged

Once an idea, message, strategy or tactic is approved, your PR team will run with it.  Clients who are not fully engaged WILL 1) give approvals and then 2) change their minds or make costly, last-minute changes that can derail timelines and budgets.

3. Represent themselves, their companies and their initiatives wholly and truthfully

Misrepresentation of the truth or half-truths waste time and budget.  Remember, your PR team is on your side rooting for you, there should be no reason to “test” this.  If you have a need to withhold information or test your PR team, you need to rethink the relationship altogether.

4.  Ensure that the day-to-day contact is a bona-fide decision maker

Because clients are in control of what their PR firm does on their behalf, it is imperative that our day-to-day client contact has the authority to make decisions for their organization.  Working through an administrative assistant, for example, typically slows the process and causes confusion and unnecessary reworks.

5.  Know their budget, deliverables and timeline

Your PR team will help establish deliverables and timelines based on your budget and provide regular activity reports detailing  what has been accomplished, upcoming priorities and next steps.  It is essential that clients keep up with these details, too.

6. Know that Time + Resources = Money/Your Budget

Whether you engage a PR firm under a retainer agreement or for short-term project work, you are essentially agreeing in advance to buy/pay for a specific amount of time in professional PR services. Just as importantly, your PR firm reserves-and protects-that time for you and your work.  Clients who misuse their provider’s time, essentially misuse their own budget.  Reputable PR firms will make good on time that they have inadvertently lost, but they cannot make up for time that has been mismanaged by their clients.

7.  Pay on time

PR practitioners work on good faith.  Often, they will invest hours of time on your behalf before the first payment has arrived.  If you question whether you might not have the funds to make good on your financial commitment, let your PR team know ASAP.  Allow them to be part of the process in finding a solution that is equitable for all parties.