1. Focus on Client Expectations
Do you truly know what your client’s expectations are? The best way to keep a client happy is to exceed their expectations. The only way to truly know what your clients expect from you is to ask, listen and clarify. Don’t be afraid to ask even the most elementary of questions in order to fully understand what a client needs and wants. Strategic client meetings should be held on a regular basis. You may only need to have these meetings with some clients on a quarterly basis, while others may need weekly or bi-weekly meetings.
Be prepared with questions before the meeting. Listen intently and if possible record the meeting so you can refer to your client’s words again later. If you don’t have a crystal-clear understanding of what your client is saying or what is needed then ask for clarification. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Clients understand that there are necessary timelines. Don’t over-promise and make sure you keep every promise you make. Ask for feedback to achieve continuous improvement. By focusing on your client’s expectations you will improve effectiveness and strengthen your relationship.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Turn Away a Prospective Client
Some firms will take any new client. Our first instinct is to think we can’t afford to turn away a prospective client. 2017 is the year to be more selective. The best clients are the clients that are a good fit for the services you provide. Inventory the clients you have the most success with and list the reasons why you are a good fit. Then look for these same attributes in prospective clients. The most successful relationships are those where your skill set strongly matches your client’s needs.
Good clients also pay their bills. It is prudent to check around to find out whether or not the prospective client has a history of non-payment or late-payment of bills. Clients with this reputation are pretty easy to discover. The last thing you need is a client who won’t pay you for your work. Finally, ask questions before you take on a new client. In order to make certain they are a good fit for your company, ask questions like:
What are your company goals for 2017?
What are you most proud of about your company?
What is your biggest challenge?
What have you done to address this challenge?
What’s keeping you from overcoming that challenge?
Have you ever worked with a public relations firm before? If so, what was your experience with the firm?
What are your expectations of working with us?
What is your budget?
There is something to be said for a “gut feeling” when you are interviewing potential clients. I think we often know when there is good chemistry and when there are red flags warning you to take a pass. Listen to your gut. The best clients are the clients that are a good fit for the services you provide and are open to letting you help.
3. It’s Time to Expand Your Digital Capabilities
If you haven’t added key talent to your internal digital team, 2017 is the year to expand. Digital and social media continue to be an essential component to successful PR campaigns. The digital marketers and social media strategists of today are making important strides in how we move the needle for client and brand awareness. Our digital teams are becoming incredible visual storytellers. A picture truly is worth a thousand words and adding video to social media can be compelling when done correctly. A talented and creative social media strategist may need to be your next hire.
4. Build and Strengthen Personal Relationships with the Media
As we know, it is a difficult time to have a career as a newspaper reporter. Newspapers and magazines are continuing to cut jobs and tighten belts. The trend of the last three years is likely to continue when CareerCast releases its list of the best and worst jobs of 2017 in April. After 28 years of ranking jobs, CareerCast has listed newspaper reporter in last place for three consecutive years—Making it the worst job in America. Bloggers come in just above reporter and broadcasters are only one level above blogger.
Now is the time to personally reach out to reporters and build or strengthen your relationships. The effectiveness of getting news out via traditional news service methods continues to lose effectiveness and can cause headaches due to varying editorial web score criteria and back link errors. Building your own media lists and creating personal relationships with reporters is the way to go in 2017. It is often more effective to pitch to journalists you know from sources your target audiences still read. Do your homework. Keep a spreadsheet with pertinent information about each reporter. Ask reporters about the type of stories they are interested in and don’t forget to make note of different editorial cycles. Map out a calendar with a list of big stories reporters have told you they are working on. You can look for hooks for specific clients to tie in to these stories. Strengthen these efforts by using social media and blogs to reinforce your story.