The consultant-client relationship is never easy

Last week I wrote about how there are a few difficult clients and they rarely get called out. I wrote about scenarios that create an unequal and unhealthy relationship. I’m sure many were taken aback. If you missed it, you may read it here. This week the tables are turned. I focus on a very common problem addressed by both journalists and clients.

So, here is a letter to the annoying, not happening and bad client servicing person.

These are ten points that most professionals who have had to deal with a bad consultant will be able to relate to. Sadly, if you are reading this you may not be one of those notorious people as they are unlikely to be reading something like this on a Monday morning.

  1. The first thing that stands out with the client servicing person that one detests is his or her incompetency. It shows instantaneously. Some are good at covering it up with sweet talk and smart dressing but in no time, it begins to show.
  2. This person will always deliver poor quality plans, reports and documents that have been prepared without due diligence. This can be annoying and lead to avoidable back and forth. One of the reasons clients want to call for a pitch is to avoid dealing with this type of person.
  3. There are professionals who are unprofessional, and their lack of ownership stands out like a sore thumb. We see them in various domains. There are quite a few in Public Relations too. They are the reason the profession gets a bad name.
  4. The common crib of journalists about the PR consulting person is that there is an absence of thinking. Something that has happened in the last ten years. Several PR professionals who began their careers in the 90s or first half of the last decade thought through and thought out their outreach and thrived.
  5. Terrible writing skills is a major pain point of every second client. It is unbelievable that most young PR professionals in consulting firms do not give this the importance it deserves. Writing is the hinge on which good public relations revolves.
  6. There is a new breed of people who come with a great degree of arrogant behaviour. These are found in PR consulting firms and many of them are young individuals with a long future ahead of them. They think they can get away forever but end up falling by the way-side.
  7. Dealing with bad days gets worse for the client who has to deal with the consultant with the bad and difficult temperament. There are many who come from very privileged backgrounds and forget that the first step to excellence in client servicing is to have a positive attitude all the time.
  8. Public Relations is very often about being at the right place at the right time. However, if there is no sense of time and timing there can be disasters. The two are different yet connected. These stem from common sense and are vital to a great relationship between the consultant and the client.
  9. Very often a consultant is expected to manage issues and stop them from becoming a calamity. Inability to navigate a crisis is often counted as a situation when clients sack the consultancy. And the root cause for this could be the one person on the business who messed up.
  10. Reading is an important hallmark of a PR consultant’s day plan. Missing domain expertise can ruin careers and destroy the relationship between the corporate organisation and the PR firm. The professional who did well in the long run was the one with the best knowledge.

This column was inspired by numerous stories one hears of good and bad consultants. Please take it in the right spirit.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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