In an industry based on delivering a service and working with people from many different organizations, it’s critical for PR professionals to build strong relationships with clients and establish a voice and personal brand. Client relations is one of the most important pillars of the PR job, but isn’t often taught in school or practiced in development trainings. Building a strong relationship with clients, gaining confidence on accounts and carving out a personal “brand” is a powerful tool that can help young PR professionals build strong client relations foundational skills to build on as they grow in an agency or organization.
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Best practices for working with clients include speedy email responses, double-checked work and strong interpersonal communication skills. But, most importantly, it requires adaptability. Working with the client to match their working style, collaboration processes and PR goals is part of the job, and the particular style can vary drastically from client to client. Learning how to “read the room” (or client), breaking out of your routine thinking and being open to new working styles is important to the cohesion and success of the team. The way you communicate with one client may be very formal and professional, while another might be more casual and friendly. Matching clients’ communication style and comfortability can help teams develop a rapport and ultimately a relationship with the client.
Relationship building helps you and your client become familiar and comfortable with each other and fosters a working environment where you can feel empowered to find your voice on teams and within your organization. Whether you’re outgoing and bubbly, quiet but mighty, or somewhere in between, sharing parts of your personality and interests with clients is a great way to build a relationship and develop your brand, both personal and professional. If you’re a media whiz and recently chatted with a great media target or read a relevant article in a favorite publication, share it with your clients and get a dialogue started around it. In the same vein, if you’re going to Disneyland over the weekend and you’re a huge Disney fan, tell your client about it (if the timing feels right).
Sharing your interests, whether they relate directly to the line items on your weekly report or not, can be a great way to kick off a client call, build trust and establish your voice. Gradually, you’ll feel more empowered to speak up or share your thoughts, and the confidence will build as your voice is established and bleed into other aspects of your job. Clients like to know that their PR team is comprised of people, just like them, who have personalities, interests, career aspirations, weekend plans and hobbies. In client services, being human is one of your greatest strengths, and it’s fundamental to develop an understanding of your client so you can service them to the best of your ability, and ideally, build a lasting relationship.
Public relations can require you to wear a lot of hats and takes a well-rounded worker and communicator. Being thorough but speedy, thoughtful and strategic, and strong but flexible are skills that form the media relations, client services, strategic counsel and content development pillars of PR. Client relations and brand development are key to establishing your voice as a young professional and building relationships in PR that will help in every stage of your career.