Last week was my first “official” week back at work from maternity leave, although I have remained involved in the business, not least with developing some new business opportunities.
Talking to other people and promoting our services has made me think more deeply about how we set out to work with clients and what it is we want to bring to client relationships.
When working with clients there is a commitment we make, in addition to providing our public relations expertise and experience, that isn’t necessarily reflected in a proposal or contract.
Let’s call it our credo, for want of a better term. It takes in some important concepts:
To provide the best outcome we need to be on the team. This means being seen as an integral part of the management of client reputation, brand positioning and communication, and not seen as ‘outsiders’.
The advantage of this, for clients, is that we will fully understand the business’s needs and we can be proactive with creating and taking advantage of opportunities.
We work best for clients when we are kept informed, have direct access to all company spokespeople, and where our activities are not filtered through the marketing department (for example). With this comes a responsibility for us to develop clear lines of communication and keep others informed.
It is critical that our involvement adds more value than it costs our clients to retain us. This means more than bringing opportunities and advice to clients, and ensuring that internally generated information is handed in the best possible way. It also means that the activities we undertake generate the best possible results, and are consistent with what we set out to do and what the clients are looking for.
This way, we ensure a compounding effect from communications so that each communication activity builds upon the others.
One of the nicest things said about our work is that we help clients punch above their weight. If we can do this with every client – for example getting them more media exposure than they could normally expect – then we are delivering that little bit extra, and ensuring our clients maintain a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace.
We believe in more than just helping our clients take the best advantage of every opportunity. We set out to do so in a way that improves their understanding of how it is done so that we also improve their ability to do it themselves.
This is the antithesis to the way many PR firms operate, and some people may think this is a way to work ourselves out of a job. But we’ve found that not only do we get better results, we also develop stronger relationships and end up doing more for clients. It’s a very satisfying approach and means that we become more than gatekeepers for our clients.
We endeavour to turn the communication strategy into a working document – for example keeping front of mind the key messages, target audiences and aims. We always try to bring clients ideas and opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to us with work. This is part of the “adding value” approach and it allows us to increase our involvement and obtain better results.
It also adds to our own satisfaction and ensures we are more than just a postman delivering client-created information to audiences. By being at the forefront of creating opportunities in a disciplined way, we help clients achieve aims, for example in thought leadership.
We organise our own corporate activities that complement our agreed approach for clients. For example, we host regular financial services lunches where we invite clients, journalists and other opinion formers, where the issues of the day are discussed and debated in a useful and informative way. This helps clients in their own public relations aims, in a more relaxed setting.
This credo means we become more than just a ‘service provider’ to our clients and instead become an invaluable resource that they can turn to in order to help their organisation achieve its aims.