“You can’t have a business without having clients and unfortunately, where there are clients, there are also ‘difficult’ clients.”
You can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Every business that provides a service, will no doubt, encounter a few disgruntled personalities along the way. As public relations professionals, we’ve all had that experience. Some clients are a breeze to work with. Others can be extremely difficult – the kind that makes you cringe every time their number lights up on your mobile. You know, the ones who drain your energy, criticize and complain incessantly about something you’ve worked on diligently (and see real value in), or an overly needy client who calls at least twice a day to find out why they aren’t in that society magazine yet!
PR is difficult at times. You’re in the middle of everyone, the diplomat between the client and the marketing spiel and between the journalist and the story. So suddenly having to deal with someone being nasty or unreasonable is just one thing that you don’t need. But how do you handle it, when the client is paying the bill?
Dealing with difficult people is essential to our success. When dealing with difficult people, specifically a client, it might seem that keeping peace and our sanity is a tough, if not impossible, task. So how do you find the right balance?
Bottom Line: You bend over backwards when appropriate but you also learn to put your foot down when needed. Even though you may be holding the phone on one end, biting your tongue and stabbing that notepad with your pen, you can turn this around! Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with difficult clients.
Be Open, Be Clear
When dealing with a client, it is better to be clear about expectations at the start of the new business relationship. This is your opportunity to share what type of reporting, results and communication your new client can expect from you. Have an honest conversation about the amount of communication that is most comfortable to your clients and what your agency can provide. However, even clients who appear pleasant, understanding and accepting in the beginning, can become challenging once the contract is signed. It is important to know that while you should aim to be a valued partner, not all requests are feasible. Don’t be afraid to tell your client no – but with good reason. Explain why their request is not realistic or possible. You cannot please everyone all of the time and that’s a fact.
Worth the Trouble
Some clients will send a rude email – out of the blue! Or you may get a harsh tone on your voice mail on a weekend. Then it’s time to ask yourself this question, “Is it me?” If not, it’s worth your while to check in on your client. Ask probing questions to find out what is really bothering him. It could be that he’s going through something that is affecting his personal life, or it could be a trickle down “telling off” from his boss that has nothing to do with you or your work. Be kind, lend your ears and see if there’s anything you can do to help. Sometimes it does have everything to do with you. If this is the case, have an honest conversation with your client, and with yourself. Perhaps, you need to assess and amplify your own efforts.
You are the Expert
For clients that call for constant updates or to give you their own PR ideas (ridiculous as they may seem), remember you are the expert, hired to do the job. Don’t be arrogant – you can either take the ideas into consideration (if worth exploring), or politely give your views as to why they cannot be executed, for e.g. it would end up in the editors’ trash. Explain why you were hired in the first place – because of your specific expertise. Perhaps, this is also a good time to share more information and updates on what you’ve been doing to assure your clients that you’re on top of things and have their best interests at heart. More importantly, assure them that you know what you’re doing.
Be Proactive and Supportive
It’s quite common for some of my clients to reach out to me for advice on matters not related to the work we’re doing. Don’t turn away. If you can help with some input to a web design or business question, become an ally and take the time to problem-solve with them. Or refer them to someone who’s in a better position to help. By offering a solution and assisting with other tasks, you show that you care about their business. This not only builds rapport but also trust and this goes a long way in building a good, long-lasting relationship with your client.
Time to Let Go!
Unfortunately, the client is not always right. If your client is consistently being difficult and your personalities just don’t mesh, then it may be time to take the “D” out and let difficult clients go. While it’s important to do whatever it takes to keep a client within reason, you, as the expert in your field, get to define what is or isn’t working. If your client is making your team miserable, taking up a lot of time better spent working on clients who do respect your work, it might be time to set you both free.
Whatever you decide, always be professional and polite. Be as honest as you can without getting too personal.
For the most part, PR pros love their clients and probably spend more time with them than they do their family. A PR agency should act as an extension of the client’s team. Your interactions with your client should build on one another – after all, you’re ultimately interested in a long-term relationship with your clients, and that is what you should strive for.
Posted by Irene Gomez, Corporate Media
2016: Time to Unwrap Your Potential
Another year has come and gone! Is it me or did 2015 just slipped us by? Again!
Now that 2016 has arrived, many of us are tentatively jotting down resolutions for the new year. Along with personal goals like doing more physical activity and watching less Reality TV (none hopefully in the near future!), I’m sure you’ve spent the final weeks of 2015 refining your business strategy, so much so that you’ve probably not had the chance to reflect.
Fret not, here are some resolutions any PR specialist (PRs) will need to make 2016 their year:
Dump the creativity
Thinking outside the box is so passé. While those so-called creative experts may try to convince us otherwise, we all know that the best ideas come when we’re alone, seconds to the deadline, wired with lots of caffeine. But, in an era where the process is everything, any PRs worth their salt needs to at least play along with the notion of collaboration. 2016 is the year to embrace the brainstorm for what it is – group therapy with a flipchart – and save your real critical thinking for your alone time.
Connect with your audience
PRs should live and breathe the organizations they represent. You may have tried a bit of client immersion in the past, but 2016 is the year to get your “Freak On” as the song goes. Starting on a new hip alcohol brand? Unleash your inner youth – listen to “Five Seconds to Summer” until you know all the words to their songs, watch the MTV Video awards again and again, go drinking in the millennial club. It probably won’t make your work any better nor your head, but it’ll definitely get you a step closer to “connecting with your audience.”
Talk the talk
Touch base, flag up, check-in, sell-in, reach out….. You’ve tried long enough to avoid using PR-speake, but my friend, you know deep down you’re fighting a lost battle. Sure, these phrases don’t really mean anything, but hamming up the industry lingo is guaranteed to boost your clients’ trust in you and make your senior management team take notice. Use it enough, and you may start to believe in yourself too.
Don’t shy away
If there’s one thing we can guarantee in 2016, it’s that another viral craze will come along demanding we stick ourselves to one digital platform or another – probably in the name of some charity. As a professional bandwagon jumper, it’s important for you to be one of the first to get involved – just make sure you’re not the last.
In the same way a pencil makes no noise as it drops unless you’re there to hear it, your hard work means nothing without a steady stream of online updates. The trick to curating a strong professional feed is a lot easier than you think. You don’t need to read articles before you share them, just make sure your post is snappy and includes a personal comment, e.g. “Interesting read … ” or “Great piece from HBR blog… ” Looking like you enjoy your job is also key – jokes and group photos will help build your online brand.
Update your LinkedIn
With top companies trawling the site for talent and ideas, it’s time to embrace the cringe. Add pictures, join groups, and list skills – both abstract (creativity, team work) and specific (blogs) – then watch as the business roll in.
Rise above the norm
2016 is the year of big picture. Avoid getting bogged down in too much of the nitty-gritty by becoming an expert in delegation. The key here is in packaging it up as empowerment. Empower your juniors to take more ownership of administrative details. Empower your seniors to use their specialist knowledge. In no time at all, you’ll have empowered your way to a clear plate and have more time to focus on improving your own skillset.
Happy New Year! May the Force Awaken in Each and Every One of Us!
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies have changed so much in the decade that the industry is starting to cross over into another popular industry – public relations (PR). Traditional PR agencies, on the other hand, are finding that they’ll have to adapt and work closely with social media to gain that competitive edge.
Historically, PR and SEO have worked in parallel as two separate practices. Now, the walls are coming down and each serves as one important piece of a larger digital marketing puzzle. With the common goal of reaching targeted audiences in a highly relevant way, SEO and PR professionals are learning the value of working together, implementing new tools and practices to exceed previous goals and expectations.
Content is the common denominator between SEO and PR, and the reality is that SEO is no longer a technical skill. In a world where dependence on technology is rapidly growing, PR and SEO can no longer exist on separate teams. Instead, it’s time for them to collaborate.
When PR practitioners use SEO appropriately, they’re more likely to draw their target audiences to their relevant and quality content. SEO is the most underutilized skill and strategy by the PR industry. This is actually a huge opportunity because PR pros aren’t using SEO the way they could be, so there’s really less competition out there, even from some Fortune 500 companies that have yet to jump on board. Small businesses tend to benefit from this merger as well.
What is becoming clearer is that SEO and PR need to work hand-in-hand to take on the largest search engine – Google. Google after all dictates SEO rules! A brand’s PR team should be aware of these trends and work with the media outlets they want coverage from so that they can help fill in the gaps and make reporters’ lives easier. The majority of, if not all journalists, start off a story by doing a Google search.
What approach can PR agencies take to ensure that they make the most of the modern digital marketing space? Well, for starters, throwing keywords at social media tactics isn’t quite the same thing as developing and implementing a plan to reach specific goals. Dropping links to news being promoted on social networks can have an impact but is difficult to sustain. You’ll need to consider the long-term value with SEO and social media to get the most of out of your public relations.
Here are ways you can integrate the two practices to create maximum boost for you/your client’s business:
- Identify your target audience. What are their behaviors and preferences for content, sharing, and media types? What keywords are used in a social and search context? Empathize with their content preferences and the context in which they consume and share. A blogger may have different preferences than say, a newspaper journalist.
- Set specific goals and measurable objectives. These include the number of mentions, comments, links, rankings, traffic, media coverage or other “engagement” metrics. Leverage tools from search engine optimization and social media marketing to track Web-based metrics.
- Determine your mix. For example, blogs, social networks, media sharing, and micro-blogging, to support and execute the strategy. Original content is great but often not practical or sustainable, so consider content curation mixed with original content for better results.
- Identify specific social tools to use. If social networks are the right channel, then determine which network works best – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram? If you add video to the mix, is distribution limited to YouTube or does it make sense to syndicate to Vimeo or other channels?
- Set measurement tools in place. Web analytics and social media monitoring services are essential for collecting useful and reportable outcomes from news SEO and social promotion.
- Identify key individuals and resources to implement. Forecast time, internal reporting, and feedback mechanisms. The most effective social media SEO efforts for PR involve the agency or PR professionals working together with content creators, SEOs, marketers and others in a position to publish and promote content online.
Final thought: The word “optimization” can be defined differently from the early days to now, but one thing remains constant: SEO is essential to any digital marketing plan, and therefore, to any PR strategy. Without optimization, a website would inevitably fall further down search engine results pages and ultimately be ignored.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia
Every firm has that one client – the one who monopolizes your time, frustrates all the other staff or makes unreasonable demands. But are your clients always right and should you always accede to their request?
I had a recent encounter with a client who was head-on adamant on holding a press conference to announce the arrival of their top management. The only issue was that there was no big news to announce at the event. After all, journalists are looking for something newsworthy or ground-breaking to report on. Announcing a visit merely for the sake of it is neither. He just wanted to provide some publicity for the company to appease the higher ups. Only after several cycles of persuasion did our client finally surrender!
The key to thriving in this type of environment is keeping it cool and managing priorities well to manage your clients’ expectations. Here are a few tips that can help you when your workload is on the verge of overwhelming you. But first, let’s take a look at the 5 common personality types.
1. The Indecisive
These clients have a constant change of heart. They may say one thing now, but the moment you turn around, they decide on something else, on a whim and fancy.
Quick Fix: Keep an open line of communication and work out the reasoning behind the new direction. Sometimes, clients may need someone to set their thinking straight. But if the behind-the-scene action has already begun and the client refuses to meet you in the middle, it may be time to whip out the original contract and bill them for the extra work.
2. The Lagger
It’s not just about meeting deadlines but these clients continue to ignore your endless requests for information, simply because they can’t get their act together.
Quick Fix: Insist on an alternative point of contact. Riding on the agreed timeline, stay on top of them by sending reminders via email and following-up with phone calls. Help them to understand that the more cooperation you receive, the better the result. Mark your emails as high priority (if urgent). It is important to cover all bases so that you’re able to do your job effectively for your client.
3. The Know-It-All
These clients come to the table with an extremely specific approach with little room for ideas.
Quick Fix: Re-establish your respective roles. As much as you might want to take the “Serve You Right” action, approach the situation with a focus on solutions. The client’s ideas may not always make sense. It is incumbent upon you to be frank about what works and what doesn’t. Dig up relevant real-life examples, if you need to, to convince your client.
4. The Demander
Possessing the general lack of awareness on the space-time continuum, these clients demand the impossible. To them, this is your area of expertise so you have the power to move oceans.
Quick Fix: Provide the client with a schedule of tasks, deliverables and let them know when they can expect to see results. Clearly outline the project scope and carefully calibrate expectations at the beginning of each engagement. Keep them informed on the project’s progress and discuss complications as and when they arise.
5. The Adhesive
Thinking they are your only client, these people believe they deserve 100% of your time. They may send you emails at 3 am and schedule meetings after work hours.
Quick Fix: Establish clear timetables and communicate, through progress reports, emails, and meetings. Don’t be afraid to say no if they encroach on your time or that of your team’s.
Working in the communications industry, can be a bit stressful at times. Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, you can oftentimes be pulled in multiple directions at the same time for items that all have the same priority levels. It’s the nature of the beast.
Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia
A well thought out and executed PR campaign is critical to successfully launching a product or business. Do it well and a PR program can help create awareness, drive initial sales and create lasting excitement. Do it wrong and you waste a whole lot of money, and risk damaging a product’s reputation for success.
Case in Point: Abercrombie & Fitch made the mistake of insulting their market when they attacked Jersey Shore’s “The Situation.” What’s even worse – they wanted the star of the hit reality series to stop wearing their clothes! Really! If you’ve ever walked past an A&F store, then there is no mistaking as to who shops there – cool cats and party girls, aka the MTV generation. While A&F thought they were being clever by insulting the beloved TV star, it turned out to be a huge PR disaster. A&F’s stock fell 15% as a result of the PR stunt, proving that biting off the hands that feed you is not very smart.
We all know that publicity is what a company receives when something notable happens. When the event is good, the publicity usually attracts new clients and gives the company something to brag about. On the other hand, there’s also the dreaded negative publicity. Unlike the positive feeling brought about by good publicity, negative publicity can leave the company and the public feeling badly.
Most of the time, bad publicity is unintentional. A company does something they think is positive and end up getting a bad reaction. Other times, the negative publicity comes from a competitor who makes an effort to create bad news about you or your business. When that happens, don’t fret. Take a deep breath. Know that like everything else in our lives, there are ways to turn the negativity around.
Create a response strategy
Turn a bad customer review into something positive by creating a response strategy. Whenever possible, reach out to the customer first, address the issue, and work towards an amicable solution. A bad review is a great opportunity to internalize important customer feedback and develop your business.
Tackle negative press head-on
Stay on top! Look out for trends in the bad press, so that you’re always prepared should (touch wood!), something bad happen to you or your business. Where possible, address the bad press and share your sincere attempts to remedy the issue. We all make mistakes – so own up and take responsibility. It’s what you do after the mistake that matters. Businesses that project an image of integrity and honesty are usually businesses consumers want to support.
Respond quickly but thoughtfully
When things go wrong, a day is too long. Be aware of the phenomenal speed at which information spreads, especially via social networking sites, and take quick action to counter bad publicity. For example, if there’s a glitch in the software you’re launching, don’t wait for user complaints to spread virally. Instead use online forums to alert them and explain what you are doing to address the problem. It shows customers, suppliers and other stakeholders that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and it also helps to defuse a situation before it gets too out of hand.
Don’t be afraid to counteract inaccuracies. For example, if you are aware of a Twitter campaign against you, tweet your version of the story. Contact editors if incorrect information has been published, and use your own website and social media presence to dispel misconceptions.
Easier said than done, you might say. But as PR practitioners, we know that it is essential to keep a level head in the face of a firestorm. In case of a bad online review, sometimes we need to take a step back and remind ourselves that we can’t please everyone all of the time. Take the opportunity instead to fix something that may be wrong with the business.
Launch a positive campaign
Bad PR doesn’t have to stick in everyone’s minds; it can be replaced by positive thoughts of an organization. Take action and go on a positive press campaign. Issue a press release about the good things your company is doing, for example, supporting a charitable cause. Go a step further – get your happy customers to go online and write reviews and before you know it, people will start thinking positively about your company again.
While it may seem impossible to get over negative publicity, there are ways to turn things around and manage the situation. The first step is not to panic. Figure out the source of the negativity and see if you can diffuse the situation. If it’s serious enough, you may need to consult with your legal team. Once you’ve started to quell the flames, it’s time to rebuild your image and get the public to forget. Eventually, a new scandal or interesting story will emerge that makes your bad publicity old news. Once that happens, focus on moving forward and preventing negative publicity in the future.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, Corporate Media