Let’s face it. Every now and then communications firms do excellent work (client is delighted), good work (client is happy), satisfactory work (client is like ‘can be better’), bad work (client is upset) and sometimes even very bad work (client is seething with anger) for their clients…it’s part and parcel of any client – consultancy relationship. Many a time it’s even said that for any client, a communications firm or communications executive is only as good as its or her / his last blunder respectively.
I have a little different view. I feel that the way a consultancy handholds a client throughout the relationship is what makes the difference. Let’s take a hypothetical example here. Suppose there’s a major crisis at the client’s end which erupts over a weekend (days off for both the client and the consultancy representatives). Many a time such crises are so big that they do a full course of damage before receding despite the client’s and the consultancy’s best efforts to ‘douse the fire’. Few days or may be weeks later when normalcy sets in, both the client and consultancy move on to other initiatives. But what the client is most likely to remember about the crisis is the fact that despite the uncontrollable damage done, the consultancy representative(s) was / were with them throughout that crisis weekend. Assuring a prospect during pitch presentations that the consultancy would be an extended communications arm of the company is one thing…and when the prospect turned client actually sees it happening, there’s a positive impact in terms of the relationship getting further strengthened.
Many a time I get calls from ex-clients who have now moved on to different companies and elevated roles to send them a proposal (of course on behalf of the firm I work for) for the PR mandate. They don’t need pitch presentations…just a two-page proposal outlining the deliverable numbers and commercials. Some of them have even jokingly gone ahead to say that a major part of PR pitch presentations (PPTs) is ‘gas’ and only a small part actually gets delivered. In several such instances, it’s not that I have done some phenomenal work for them during my earlier relationships with them. In a couple of cases, I have even messed up bigtime on their mandates. And yet they have that big heart to come back to me, simply because somewhere in my own simple way, I had stood by them during the good and bad times…and somewhere this did make a difference to them.
These returning ex-client representatives are very well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. So much so that they have even lightly pulled me up on several occasions in the new relationships. Let me narrate a funny instance here. Once as part of a monthly plan for a client, I proposed one-on-ones with two English Mainline dailies. I put forth the names of four English Mainlines, i.e. A (most preferred mainline with highest circulation), B, C and D (least preferred among mainlines) and mentioned that we’ll do any two from among these four. While I was discussing the plan with the client, he quipped, “Dei (Tamil slang for ‘Hey’)…I know which two you are going to do…you’ve put ABCD, but you will end up giving me only CD…then why all this drama…might as well remove AB.” And we had a hearty laugh…sign of a classic relationship.
In a nutshell…
Communication consultancy professionals need to inculcate a culture of reassurance for their clients. Reassurance is a feel-good factor for any client representative…the feeling that we are always there for them and that they can count on us. ‘Main Hoon Na’ is the vibe that clients expect from us…it reassures them that their communications mandate is in safe hands.
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