Coming from a myriad of experiences with regard to educational and professional roles, building strong interpersonal relationships was never the number-one priority. Outside of these roles, in my personal interactions, relationships have always been tremendously important to me. Initiating and strengthening these bonds has always come naturally. So when I entered the world of PR, it was a perfect fit for both sides, the client and agency.
Although I’ve met people in the industry who tend to shy away from becoming too close with their clients—and it goes without saying that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed—it’s unbelievably gratifying to build a rapport with clients that extends beyond strategy development and day-to-day deliverables.
Not only is a tight bond helpful when faced with challenges related to success, but it also goes a long way in terms of transparency. If each side doesn’t feel comfortable in being straightforward with opinions and providing feedback, it’s likely that superior results aren’t being delivered. In addition, the account may ultimately suffer from a lack of communication if both sides are not at ease in discussing areas that might be lacking so necessary adjustments can be made.
So, how can you develop a more personal relationship and establish an open dialogue?
Go to dinner and don’t feel obligated to bring up work-related issues. If you and your client discuss which vacation spot is top-notch, it’s likely because you respect each other’s opinion and knowledge. If someone is getting married, send a gift. And don’t forget birthdays. The card that arrives on a special occasion says a lot about how much you care.
If there was ever an industry for those who are outgoing and appreciate strong connections—regardless of whether the focus is consumer or B2B—public relations is the place to be. But, if you’re not hearing, “Oh wow, you didn’t have to do that,” on a frequent basis, maybe it’s time to go that extra mile.
Most importantly, have regular discussions about how the program is progressing. By both sides opening the door to constructive criticism, the client and the PR pro will demonstrate they are both invested in finding ways in which the account, as well as the relationship, can be enhanced.