Today’s “Firm Voice” blog from the Council of PR Firms chronicles my evolution from client to agency practitioner, and discusses how I could have been a better client now that I know what I know from eight years of agency life. Long-time friends Kathy Baughman (ComBlu), Dave Samson (Chevron) and Jon Harris (Sara Lee) also chime in with important tips on how to become a great client.
Bottom line advice from the four of us: When in doubt, talk it out. Since the long Council post needed to be edited for space, I wanted to share the full five tips from Jon Harris on how to become a great client:
1. Direction is key. One of the benefits from being a client is that he/she has tremendous access to information about their business and truly understands what is needed. The best clients are the ones who are able to effectively communicate their goals and objectives.
2. Don’t wait until it is too late. Educate early and often. The sooner you bring in your partners into the process, the better they can shine.
3. Be realistic about measurement and timing. Every strong relationship is built on candor and honesty. Make sure that you provide your partner with enough information about expectations and measurement. And be sure to listen to their counsel. If they tell you that timing and projected results are not realistic, you should listen and ask the right questions. You are all in it together. You win, they win, everyone wins.
4. Listen to the advice given. Wayne Callaway, former CEO of PepsiCo had a great line that I have used often in my career. “God gave you two ears and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion.” As a client, listen to your partner’s advice. This is what you are paying for. And for partners, it is never easy to tell a client why his/her idea won’t work, but it is the job at hand. Business is competitive, but can never be compromised. Clients will respect you far more when you speak up and find a solution together.
5. Know your strengths and opportunities of improvement. As a client, there are areas that you will know quite well and some you don’t. You are not a “Jack or Jane of All Trades.” You bring in external partners to complement your experience and expertise. Make sure to listen to the advice given.