It’s exciting when you land a new client, especially one that you connect with, feel passionate about and can truly get behind. Sometimes, in the midst of all that excitement and “newness,” as with any new relationship, it’s easy to get caught up in all the “fun” and forget to discuss some of the less exciting minutia. But while those little details may not seem so important when it's time to pop the champagne, a lack of clear communication at this stage actually lead to some disastrous and stressful situations if not dealt with in the honeymoon stage. It's absolutely critical that you clarify expectations, processes and plans on everything from invoicing to reporting, before you even think about pitching the media.
During your new client kick-off meetings, or as part of your new client on-boarding process, be sure to address the following 5 things:
1. Determine who is in charge of sending samples
If you are in charge of the physical mailing of editorial sample requests, that’s fantastic! That puts you and your team in charge of shipping and messengering out requested items in a timely manner and also, keeping track of them. If an editor needs something within 24 hours, you’re on it. If anyone is going to get your client’s rose gold double stud earrings to Redbook magazine for their 9am pitch meeting the next morning, you will!
When your client prefers to be in charge of sending out the product samples, you’d think they would be just as enthusiastic about the opportunities, right? After all, they did hire you for these potential placements. Well, this is not always the case. Sometimes, they are busy with their own workload and don't receive your emails or phone calls in time. Or, they are low on inventory and don’t have enough to send out, so they just don’t. And they don’t tell you. It happens more than you think. When these situations occur, not only will your client miss out on potential placements, it reflects poorly on their brand, and you as their representative.
You might have a policy that requires your agency to handle samples, but if not, it's a subject up for discussion. It is your job to educate your client about this process, and encourage them to give ownership of samples to your team. Be sure to have a conversation (and include in your contract or SOW) who is in charge of product samples, and if they insist on managing things themselves, include a caveat that reminds them that media opportunities are largely contingent upon having the right product at the right time, and even the slightest delay could seriously damage their reputation.
2. Review payment terms
It’s important to let your clients know how and when you expect to be paid. Do you prefer 50% or 100% at the beginning of the month? Net 10 or Net 30? And do you want them to send you a check in the mail each month or pay an invoice via PayPal or Quick Books? Are wire transfers an option? How do you handle late payments? Lay it all out in your contract before they sign and then have another conversation on the start date where you state your payment expectations and let them know what the repercussions will be (not just the late fee, but loss of media opportunities, possible dismissal as a client etc).
3. Discuss communication preferences
In this day and age, there are so many ways to get in touch. Email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter...and so it's important to have a conversation about how clients can approach you when they need something. It's also important to set the stage for the type of communication you allow by discussing a plan for regular status calls, brainstorm sessions and other meetings that are important each month.
If you are okay with texting, for example, but not only during business hours, be clear that you will not respond to anything after 6pm, and hold the line. If phone calls make you shudder and voicemails cause your soul to cringe, emphasize that you are reachable via email and that you only check voicemail once a day.
I live on email and practically email most of my clients on a daily basis. I like to keep them in the loop with what I’m working on and share most of my media correspondences with them as well. I consider my daily emails their mini updates and beyond that I like to focus on doing the work, not sending updates about the work.
4. Explain your reporting process
How often will you be providing insights and results to your client? I create a monthly activity report (get the template here) that states what pitches were drafted and sent out, what media was placed, what media is pending and any additional tasks that were handled.
If a client were to then ask me to add my updates to their Google docs/Box/Excel spread sheets, create a PPT presentation for a board meeting, or request a weekly report, that is additional work (and time) that was not planned or built into the profit model of the retainer agreement.
Be your own advocate and make sure to tell potential clients up front what you are and are not willing or able to do for the price you’re giving them.
5. Tell your potential client that PR does not come with any guarantees. Then tell them again.
PR is one of those things that is hard to explain and if you’re not in the industry, even harder to understand. Technically, it’s not marketing or sales, but it can play into both those worlds. PR is about creating brand awareness. It’s about promoting your client to the right media outlets in the right way, at the right time. Sometimes you’ll make a goal and sometimes you’ll miss.
But since you’re not literally buying ad space on a magazine page or website, there are no guarantees, and it's important that clients understand this. After all, even if you do land an editorial spot on a magazine page or website, there are no guarantees that it will make anyone reading it buy anything. Sad but true, and you'll quell a nervous client quickly by being open, honest and then working your hardest to make their dreams come true!
All in all, you set the stage for an easier client relationship by having systems and proccesses in place around payment, communication, reporting and samples, just to name a few. The clearer you can be, the easier it is for your lovely new client to follow suit.
Photo Credit: Raleene