Working with PR professionals when you’re a PR professional can be, er, complicated if certain ground rules aren’t followed. That’s not to say that clients in a PR or communications role are more important than any others — you should absolutely have best practices in place when dealing with ALL clients, and if you don’t, please start immediately.
Rather, these are tips to make the relationship operate more smoothly for shared success.
- Ignoring your internal partners’ experience and past wins
Let’s set the stage a bit. Imagine being a surgeon’s primary care physician or a litigator’s lawyer. One could assume that the client in these cases might believe he or she knows a thing or two more than the person they’re paying for their services. Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don’t. But it’s critical to acknowledge the person’s expertise. Yes, the physician is responsible for the care of her patient as if he were not a doctor, but does that mean she should ignore his education, residency and career while treating him?
Look, your client hired you for a reason, so they know that you bring valuable expertise and ideas. But equally important (heck, probably more important) is recognizing that they, too, likely have past experiences and successes on which they’re basing ideas or questioning yours. Perhaps they’ve tried a strategy before with which you’re unfamiliar. Maybe it was wildly successful. Maybe it was a dud and they learned a valuable lesson from it. Why pass up the opportunity to learn something new?
- Not actually listening to what the client needs
An internal media relations/communications/marketing team can range in size — depending on the company, of course — from a one-person shop to a growing team in double digits. I’ve been on an internal communications team with a very healthy (and talented) staff and we worked with a few agencies for certain, and usually very specific, things that weren’t exactly in our wheelhouse or for which we were limited in resources and needed some help.
There were times this made for a great, collaborative relationship in which the work of both parties was complementary. There were times this made for incredibly frustrating situations, and it usually could be traced back to simply not listening. The good news? This is preventable.
- Not effectively communicating to the client
This one seems like a no-brainer: An in-house communications team working with an external PR team should be communicating all the time, around the clock, perhaps ad nauseum. But this isn’t always the case.
Remember the doctor analogy — you can’t just assume they’ve “got this” because they’re in the biz. They hired you to do a job and do it well, and in their own field, no less. The bar is raised. They raised it the moment they hired you. Don’t fail them because you assume they know the ins and outs of the field. They do, but they brought you on to help them.