Just Say NO! When Your Client is Wrong

Public relations is a client-service driven industry.  However, the savviest PR pros know how and when to say no.  The ability to provide counter counsel is equally as important as following client directions and initiatives.  Here’s how to best approach your client, when you are confident their strategic direction is wrong.

  1. Arm yourself with knowledge.  Take the extra time to really understand your client, their business and communication objectives and the target audiences.   It seems simple, but public relations professionals often move quickly to tactical implementation.   The best firms act as counselors who challenge clients by delivering strategic business recommendations beyond traditional media outreach.
  2. Ask questions.  When your client requests you create a Facebook or Twitter account you must determine their purpose.  Specifically ask how this will help their business?  Brand awareness?  Drive store traffic or product sales?  Build consumer engagement?  Which of their stakeholders do they want to reach and why?
  3. Preempt.   Ask clients where they want to be.   Are they seeking web site traffic?  Or do they yearn for a Today show hit?    Determine if there is any way to make a match.  Is there a credible media-trained spokesperson?  Do they have quality b-roll?  Today may not air a story if there isn’t current and recent digital quality footage to support the story.   Always consider the best options based on available resources.
  4. Require a commitment.  Once you determine the objectives, you should outline essential elements for success (transparency, timing, approvals, content, etc.).   Be armed with the insights, policies, demographics and samples of the types of uses for various digital and traditional public relations channels.   I.e. if your client isn’t able to commit to delivering fast-feedback or access, a social media campaign might not be the best plan of action.
  5. Educate.  Helping clients educate their internal constituents (especially the C-suite executives) is essential.  Arm clients with measure for success.   Showcase the impact on business of recommended initiatives.  The best way to grow client support is to help them   promote successes through the client organization.

Don’t downplay your expertise, knowledge and creativity.    Provide honest and intelligent alternatives to clients.  Your ability to successfully challenge clients ensures resources are allocated accordingly and expectations are met.


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