As PR practitioners it’s our job to know the latest and greatest ways to communicate our clients’ messages and engage reporters. The bulk of our job is strategically placing our clients’ ideas in the public realm. Whether the audience is trade or mainstream, today there is no shortage of channels. Online outreach is often the most efficient way to achieve that objective and social media makes it easy to leverage success.
And selfishly, as industry professionals we often want to use the trendiest channel possible to help our clients. One trend may promise streamlined targeting and reaching the audience where they are. More than likely it will require a fresh approach to marrying messaging with content that the audience wants to read. Importantly, it will definitely demand client buy-in and, perhaps, a c-suite sell.
Still we develop plans and map out tactics and relay our recommended approach to clients. In all of this excitement we might be forgetting to ask ourselves one crucial question: “Is the client ready for this?” For some clients the answer is a clear “yes,” but for others in certain industries where a more conservative culture or smaller budgets prevail, our approach might seem as though it’s coming out of left field. And that’s when we have to remind ourselves that the latest and greatest might sound cool and for certain achieve results, but is it right for the client? Does it make sense for their audience, both external and internal? At what cost will it provide value? Are we really being just a bit vain when it comes to using what’s “hot?”
In our business, knowing the specifics of a client’s industry and their messaging is paramount. Many times we not only help them disseminate their message—we also help them develop it. But that’s only half our job. In order for us to be successful on behalf of our clients we have to get to know who they are. We need to know them both as people and organizations. What do they like? What do they truly value? Not only does this make for better relationships that yield results over the course of a specific campaign, it fosters long-term engagement with a client—which is key to the ongoing success of the agency. It’s how we make the transition from vendor to partner.
If we don’t work toward using new technology and tactics to problem-solve for our clients, we aren’t providing the best possible service. However, what’s new might not always be the right fit. And we have to know that, too. Understanding the client, their business and culture, tolerance for risk and reading unspoken cues is a big part of our job. When we earn the place of partner first, it’s always a win. We help our clients reach their goals and create the foundation for a lasting mutually successful relationship.
Liz Baker is a Senior Account Executive at Karma Agency.