The Contract is Signed, Now What?

This is a guest post from Solo PR PRO member Makasha Dorsey. 

You’ve spent weeks, maybe even months, courting a potential client and then finally you get a commitment in the form of a contract. After the happy dance that you would only do in the privacy of your office, you pull yourself together to begin the process of adding your client to your workload. As a Solo PR professional, this part can be just as daunting as pursuing new work. You have to determine what information you need in order to help your client’s gain that needed exposure.

“Onboarding new PR clients is always an exciting time; it’s much like the honeymoon period in a new relationship,” Elizabeth Friedland, Senior PR Account Manager at Bandy Carroll Hellige explained. “Both parties are excited for what’s to come, but still trying to feel each other out.” This is the perfect opportunity to educate the client team about the public relations strategy while administering mechanisms that produce measurable results. This is where expectations are set.

After reaching out to several public relations professionals, I compiled a list of three things you should accomplish during your onboarding process.

Get to Know Your Team

And, not just the marketing team. Typically, we rely on these professionals because they bring so much to the table. However, Matthew Turner of the Boston Turner Group believes that “face-time with the right executives and subject matter experts” is necessary to pull of tactics. Turner says, “A successful PR strategy requires the executives to be available often on a moment’s notice. The more nimble you are in responding to the requests of harried journalists, the more likely you will help them and earn their trust and ink. If I can’t get executive support, I need to know that early on so that I can adjust my strategy toward more long-term article pitches and a direct-to-audience social media strategy.”

Use the Team to Gather Information

Public relations is information driven. We have to know – or, in some cases, help create – a client’s key messages. Asking the right questions helps.

Ford Kanzler’s guiding principle is “strategy first, then tactics.” Ford, who is the owner of Marketing/PR Savvy, finds that initially helping his clients identify their competitive differentiation and create a positioning statement and key messages helps build his credibility by demonstrating value before publicity efforts even begin. “The result is clear direction, agreement on what’s important, time and money saved on tactical planning and execution especially with other comms pros within the company and external suppliers and consultants.”

Use the Information to Create a Plan

Since PR does not stand for press release, a public relations plan should be developed to provide reference information and tactical direction for team members. A PR plan should include an introduction or overview of the client which offers a SWOT analysis; the plan objectives and strategies to meet those objectives; the message model (key messages); target audience lists; spokesperson training; programs; monitoring, and a budget.

These three tasks may seem tedious. However, when used consistently, these steps become easier to implement and provide greater value to your clients. How do you onboard new clients?

Solo PR PRO Premium Members: Download the full Client Intake Interview for your use with newly signed clients. 

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Makasha Dorsey is a writer and business development consultant with more than 15 years experience in implementing communications strategies. With a keen talent for relationship building, Makasha creates alliances with thought leaders to get her clients the exposure they need.

  • LaShaunda Hoffman

    Excellent tips Makasha.

  • Makasha, this is excellent guidance. Today more than ever it is critical to have a solid onboarding process that involves key stakeholders. It is so important to align efforts as the lines are continuously blurred for traditional functions. Thank you so much for gathering the information and sharing your process.

  • Thanks Karen. I learned the hard way to make sure my onboarding process was thorough.

  • thanks @6ee3143bc28b9fe099e4f06f3314520b:disqus

  • Adonna Pruette

    As you mentioned, the onboarding process is where client expectations begin to be set. Do you have key phrases that you do (or don’t) say to a client in this initial phase that helps them to set realistic expectations for their PR?