Picture this: You’ve set up a meeting with a prospective client, only to learn… they have never worked with a PR professional before. What do you do? Is this the right client for you?
Clients that are brand new to the world of public relations can present opportunities for wonderful new partnerships, as well as potential pitfalls you may want to avoid.
New-to-PR clients present unique challenges and opportunities
One of the potential advantages of working with a client new to PR is that they come to the conversation as a blank slate. Free of any past experiences — either good or bad — they may be more likely to trust your strategic counsel.
But even without previous PR experiences, they will bring their own expectations about what they want or hope PR to do for their business. As with any client, a big part of making the relationship work comes from a PR pro’s ability to set and manage expectations. (Keep reading for more keys to success!)
Working with a client who is new to PR requires a significant amount of education about the PR function and what it involves. You may spend more time than usual debunking myths or dispelling misconceptions about the full role of public relations. This is an opportunity to introduce and leverage your full skill set, but it may also require more hand-holding than with experienced clients.
5 tips to set up for success with a new client
No matter the PR experience your prospective client brings, it’s essential to cover some basic expectations during the vetting process — long before you ever sign a contract.
It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of signing a new client to your roster, but without having these vital conversations, you may find yourself trying to live up to wildly unrealistic expectations.
Here are five discussions that can help you evaluate a new client relationship and avoid potentially sticky situations:
- Understand client goals — Ask your prospective client what success looks like for them. How will you know if you are successful?
- Understand client processes — Ask them how things operate within their organization so you can get a feel for how you will work together. Will you be collaborating with other team members or outside agencies? How will PR fit into their current processes?
- Explain your process — Lay out what the journey to success could look like, and be sure to include your expectations for client involvement. PR cannot work in an isolated bubble.
- Set expectations for results — What can your client reasonably expect to get out of working with you? Make sure to also discuss the timing for results. Many clients, especially those new to PR, underestimate the time involved in onboarding, pitching, publication schedules, etc.
- Paint a picture of the first three months — Discuss what the first 90 days of the relationship could look like, and confirm that you and the prospective client are in agreement before proceeding.
Bonus tip: With each one of these discussion points, follow up with the question, “Is this what you were expecting from this experience?” It’s a great tool for getting to the bottom of any hesitations or misunderstandings.
Karen says, “Cover every base so that you both have a mutual understanding of what they will get and the journey it will take to get there.”
The #1 hack for choosing good clients: the pause
Once you’ve had an initial conversation with a potential client and have agreed on expectations and goals, your next step should be to take a step back and pause.
Whether you’re on the fence about this new client or are already feeling a wholehearted yes, take a day or two before giving your final answer. Express your excitement to the client, then establish next steps — offer to follow up with a call or email by a certain deadline.
During this time, take a hard look at what it would mean for your business if you took on this new client. Do you have the time and capacity? How would this work fit in with your existing roster of clients? Take a breath and give yourself the space to process everything that you have discussed.
“Don’t be afraid to take a beat and make a good decision,” Karen says. “Make sure that you are placing yourself in an environment where you can thrive.”
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