Setting client expectations in Public Relations is most important

All of us get excited when we win new business after a very competitive multi -pitch presentation.  Yes, we need to win businesses so that we are able to grow and expand the organisation. Also winning businesses helps the consultancy to get exposed to new verticals and will also offer challenge to the PR professionals working in any PR consultancy to work and understand new brands and enhance their knowledge and experience. Having said that before your engagement starts with the new client it is most important to get the client expectations right so that the partnership continues for a long term. Also, most clients in today’s competitive world look for long term partnership as PR as a tool needs time to build the brand in the stakeholder’s mind. And 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. So, what are the key aspects one looks at in setting the expectations which both the client and consultancy agree and follow it religiously. 

  • 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. 
  • Team Structure:  Please ensure that the team structure is agreed upon with the team members designation and profile. In the consultancy business since there is high attrition one must ensure that in the event of any team member leaving the replacement should happen in the designated time with proper training imparted to the new member. There are some clients who insists that a team should not handle multiple accounts. So, it is better to be clear at the start what the load of each team member will be right at the beginning. 
  •  Documentation & Processes: Please set timelines on when the minutes and documents such as the work in progress will be shared with the client. The client should not chase and remind you about the same. Hence agree on a date and follow it. 
  • Messaging Workshop: Insist on having a detailed workshop to understand the client’s business and agree on the objectives and the strategy planned. Messaging for each quarter should be finalised well in time before each quarter. Every quarter you need to visit this and seek concurrence from the client if that is being delivered as per the agreed objectives and goals set. 
  • Spokesperson Availability: Getting the spokesperson on time is always a challenge. Hence workout a system with the client to ensure that the spokesperson is available on time. Avoid your client from cancelling any meetings with journalist frequently as in the long run this can hamper your relationship with the media. When it comes to relationship meeting with media please 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 and 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 is important that this cardinal meeting should never be postponed and should happen on time every quarter. 
  • Proactive & Not Reactive: Clients love and are always looking for value addition in their communication strategy. So, if you are a consultancy who is proactive and is able to execute the ideas recommended one 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 & Measurement:  Ultimately you need to agree on how will you evaluate the performance of the consultancy and the team.  Hence it is 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 PR activity. 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 a sample demo of the measurement process should be presented to the client and obtain their green signal on the same. Besides the measurement method you need have a client satisfaction survey done every 6 months on some key parameters that you agree with the client. These need not be elaborate but should cover the key hygiene factors that is required to manage a clients business. 

Managing expectations is not rocket science but it all comes down to be very clear in what you communicate to your client. One must be very sure as to what you can achieve and what you cannot so there is no ambiguity in the end. Remember your client’s expectation are not just results but quality results. Therefore, never over promise and then struggle to deliver it as it is always better to play cautious and not surprise or shock the client. This will help you to manage the clients better instead of always being caught on the backfoot. 

To conclude we all, know over a period of time PR has become a powerful tool for many clients. Just like other tools in the business of communication one need to know how to use it and what you want to achieve in the end. Consultancies in India today are following the West and are moving very rapidly towards using PR as a great strategic tool and the focus is to build brands and monitor them carefully and not just perform media relations and execute the same.

Ganapathy Viswanathan
An independent consultant in Branding and Communication, Ganapathy Viswanathan comes with over three decades of experience in Brand Communication, Public Relations & Digital Marketing. He has worked in diverse disciplines with several multinational advertising agencies like Ogilvy, Lowe and Mudra Group.

On the Public Relations front, he was the General Manager, Western region of 20:20 MSL, where he spearheaded the western region operations. In his last role he was the Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing Communication at Eureka Mobile Advertising - a mobile engagement company in India head quartered in UK.

2 Comments on "Setting client expectations in Public Relations is most important"

  1. Ramasubramanian K S | November 28, 2019 at 9:36 PM | Reply

    Very well articulated. One can gauge from the essay the rich experience of the author.

  2. Rajesh Ramanathan | November 30, 2019 at 9:36 PM | Reply

    I think as PR Practitioners we tend to forget to set expectations many times. This article explains how important is to set client expectations so that there is smooth journey and long term partnership with a client.

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