PR Parables with Moushumi Dutt says don’t be a client yes man!

We asked for inputs from you, the PR community to go no holds barred on what do you all think and feel about your inseparable, oft sparring yet your forever partners, a.k.a “Clients”. Thank you once again to those who have come forward sharing their views. Love it and keep it going.

 If I were to reflect on what worked and still does, it literally boils down to just two words, “Mutual Respect”, and in these two decades and more, I have often seen that even the smallest and tiniest gap here, can wreak havoc on both, the holy grail is all about giving and receiving, “Mutual Respect”.

It sounds simple, yes, but I think we all know that heart burns happen because of deviations in this space. Very recently, I encountered a situation where the PR agency head chose not to sign a retainer relationship with a prospective client, she was privy to his way of dealing with her team and was quite sure that she didn’t want a long term relationship with a client. I loved it when she said “ a client is not worth if we both don’t enjoy working with and for each other”, that’s exactly what I mean by Mutual Respect. Earn it. Give it. Walk away.If it is not yours.  

Stop being a client yes man!

Pooja Trehan Dhamecha, founder, PRestaurants a firm that focuses on telling the story of food brands, wrote in saying that you have to, “Disrupt the pattern of saying 'yes' to everything a client demands - and explain the best strategy that will yield higher returns for the brand. Often agencies fall into the format of pleasing clients or offering what has been asked for. At such times it's imperative for PR representatives to evaluate what would be effective to enhance buzz for the client and their brand.

Trehan elaborates that part of a healthy client -consultancy relationship is, “Making an effort to pre-empt the client's needs and address the same in time. A small step towards that is to share reports or plans or ideas, and not make the client ask for such hygiene practices.”

Moushumi Dutt  agrees that, ‘No’, is sometimes good to be effective and to win the respect of your client, or whoever else you maybe dealing with in the context of your role as PR adviser. It could well be a disruption as you say, but it is a game changing experience and the ability to stand up and say ‘No’, when you know something won’t work or won’t bring out the best, is what makes this relationship stronger, sturdier and solid. All the points you have rightly mentioned could well be clubbed as the low hanging fruits, and I am often surprised why we don’t pluck them and make them ours. Once you decide and you have good reason to push back, please do.”

Illustrating with an example, Dutt says, “In one of earlier PR Parables, I had called out this young executive, who impressed the CEO and his leadership team when she told them point blank that “ all of you are very unimpressive when it comes to impressing the media” , she also backed it up with a detailed training plan on story telling. That stood out and will always be my north star when it comes to being frank, honest and candid with your client. “

Communicate better with the client

Shilpa Jain, who calls herself a publicist at large says, “”The common objective of a public relations consultancy firm and its client is to achieve good reputation and brand building for the company/individual. As long as we all keep this larger goal in mind, we will automatically behave in a way to serve the common purpose. For instance, reminder options are available on all gadgets and it can be used optimally by both the parties. Using agencies as scapegoats and playing the blame game for petty things like non-reminder helps no one. Working together as a team has always yielded far superior outcomes.  It is extremely embarrassing and shameful to see clear lack of communications within the communication industry itself. Nothing, I repeat nothing, can replace an understanding achieved through a talk over phone or better still a meeting. WhatsApp is at best, a convenience tool and this is proven by psychologists and sociologists. So just pick up the phone and TALK."

Dutt endorses this whole heartedly saying, “ Thank you Shilpa, you make a very telling comment and in this very platform in an earlier article, we have spoken about the importance, the need for and the power of the spoken word, for not only does it allow for a better and more detailed context of what we are saying but it helps build a lasting relationship over time. Be it clients, media, external and internal stakeholders too. The old school of PR was all about investing time with these people. The new age PR should also ramp up on this front.”

Poonam Mahajan, founder, Apexx Media, also agrees that, “ The major areas of issues in a consultancy and client relationship are lack of effective communication about how the project will proceed, improperly setting expectations too high or too low, lack of follow through on small yet important details, under estimating project complexity or scope, failing to understand user requirements and inappropriate interventions.”

Mahajan also outline an issue that many PR consultants are beginning to openly talk about now. She says, “Often the consultants improperly sets expectations too high, in order to get the account and this really effects the relationship in the long term. Hence, the first and foremost rule to follow in a CCR is, the consultant should practice what he preaches and give out a clear message. He should avoid making false promises .”
Adds Mahajan, “A complete research and analysis should be made by the consultant and then should under commit and over deliver on account. To avoid wrong intervention the consultant should take follow up on every small detail and don’t be afraid to tell the client that you have a difference of opinion.”

Moushumi applauds Mahajan’s take, while offering some perspective.

She says, “A complete research and analysis should be made by the consultant and then should under commit and over deliver on account”, you make a very pertinent comment, Poonam, but I would be a bit cautious on this one, cause it is extremely important and critical that the “under commit” should be done with great care and greater integrity, otherwise the “ over deliver” bit will fall flat and earn us shame and no stripes. This does happen sometimes and I am glad you have brought it up.”

If I were to sum up the crux of this relationship between the two C’s, the client and the consultancy, ironically and comical enough it will be all another bigger, brighter and bolder “C”,this one stands for “communication” between the two !   

Moushumi Dutt is a corporate communications veteran. PR Parables is her attempt to give back to the PR business by sharing her learnings from over two decades of work in the PR business. She can be reached at @moushumidutt.

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