Ganapathy Viswanathan
Guest Article

How to match client expectations in PR

Clients are looking at value, and not just volumes. So, ‘strategic lead PR’ is important, says our guest author.

Most of us get excited when we win a new business after a competitive multi-pitch presentation. Yes, we need to win businesses so that we’re able to grow and expand the organisation.

Winning businesses also helps the consultancy to get exposed to new verticals. It will offer challenge to the PR professionals working in any consultancy to work and understand new brands, and enhance their knowledge and experience.

Having said that, before your engagement with the new client starts, it’s important to get the client expectations right at the beginning so that it’s a long-term partnership.

Most clients in today’s competitive world look for a long-term partnership for PR and, hence, it’s important to choose the right partner to build your brand. Nobody wants to move away from a consultancy in a short time, as it’s a massive task to get the new consultancy aligned to the client’s goals and thinking, as one will lose time.

So, what are the key aspects one looks at in setting the expectations that both the client and consultancy agree and follow religiously?

Here are some basic hygiene factors one should look into once your engagement with the client starts.

Team structure: Get your team structure in place. With so much attrition happening in the PR domain, clients would like to see, beforehand, the team that will service the business. Ensure that the load bearing of the team is right so that it doesn’t affect your client, as many clients aren’t comfortable with teams working on multiple accounts.

Documentation and processes: Set timelines on when the minutes and documents, such as the work in progress, will be shared with the client. The client shouldn’t chase and remind you about the same. Hence, agree on a date and follow it.

Commercial terms: Finance is the most important thing. Agree on the figure and ensure that the consultancy shares the matching deliverables and the team structure with the client before one move to the next stage.

Messaging workshop: Insist on having a detailed workshop to understand the client’s business, and agree on the annual objectives and the strategy planned. Messaging for each quarter should be finalised well in time before the quarter starts. You need to visit this every quarter and seek concurrence from the client if that is being delivered as per the agreed objectives and goals.

Spokesperson availability: Getting the spokesperson on time, is always a challenge. Hence, work out a system with the client to ensure that the spokesperson is available on time. Ensure that your client doesn’t cancel any meetings with journalist frequently as, in the long run, this can hamper your relationship with the media. When it comes to meeting the media, make it amply clear about the purpose of the meeting. Caution the client to not expect any outcome out of those meetings.

Quarterly review: This is mandatory. Tell your client to block the calendar every quarter to review the output and the work in progress. Quarterly review is a good diagnostic tool to do any course correction in case the desired objectives are not met. So, it’s important that this cardinal meeting should never be postponed and happen on time every quarter.

Proactive and not reactive: Clients love and are always looking for value addition in their communication strategy. So, if you’re a consultancy that is proactive and able to execute the ideas recommended without flaw, you will have an added advantage. However, here again you have to be practical, as the proof of the pudding will be to achieve quality outcome that was agreed.

RoI and measurement: Ultimately, you need to agree on how you will evaluate the performance of the consultancy and the team. Hence, it’s important to identify and agree on the measurement that the client and consultancy will follow to review the effectiveness and the final outcome of the various PR activities. There is always a difference of opinion when it comes to PR measurement. So, this has to be cleared at the beginning and followed for the entire period. If required, create a sample demo of the measurement matrix you plan to follow for total clarity.

Managing expectations isn’t rocket science, but it all comes down to being clear in what you communicate to your client. One must be sure as to what you can achieve and what you can’t so there is no ambiguity at the end.

Remember, your client’s expectations aren’t just delivering results, but quality results. Therefore, never over promise and then struggle to deliver it, as it’s always better to play cautious and not surprise or shock the client. This will certainly help you to manage the clients better, instead of always being caught on the back foot.

To conclude, PR has become a powerful tool for many clients. Just like other marketing tools in the business of communication, one needs to know how to use it and what you want to achieve at the end, based on the objectives set.

Consultancies in India today are following the west and moving rapidly towards using PR as a great strategic tool. The focus is to build brands and monitor them carefully, and not just perform media relations and execute the same.

Clients are also looking at value, and not just volumes. So, ‘strategic lead PR’ is important. Most consultancies know the importance of strategic lead PR to give the right solutions to the clients. And, with the advent of social media, agencies are getting better equipped to make that happen.

India is catching up and has made good progress. Leveraging digital should be the top priority for both agencies and clients.

(Our guest author is Ganapathy Viswanathan, independent communication consultant.)

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