Managing a Client’s Expectations Upfront – Part 1

(This piece I decided to split into three parts the following is the first installment)

Managing a client’s expectations upfront has always been key in the public relations and marketing service field. Having worked on the client side, the agency side and consulting side I’ve seen the 360 degree view from all sides. When you clash with a client, or agency, over goals and expectations within the first two weeks  of working with them somebody missed the boat.  When writing proposals most goals are clearly written and agreed to before any work takes place.  This is necessary before any contract is even written.  But, when clients blatantly can’t see the value in your work (they hired you because you know more than they do) what do you do?  Sometimes the best thing is to walk away.

Goal Setting is Key for any Proposal.  Almost every client I’ve worked with or talked to initially wants to be on the Today Show and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Some clients have shied away from that saying “they only want trades.”  I have had clients who in the past would want me to seek out media opportunities, as many as I could, just to approve or disapprove the opportunity – and nine times out of ten they turned them down. You know the scary ones where you get millions of media impressions in one minute like CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg radio or TV.  You know the really easy placements to get that take no time at all securing. The funny thing is that it is within their target audience and on message. What do they know that you don’t know?  I had one client say after turning down a media placement on a national broadcast television news show that they didn’t want the world to see their soft underbelly.  What?  Having worked with them for three months I didn’t realize they had a soft underbelly – and no amount of Pilates and or, yoga would help firm that up.  In retrospect the client wasn’t allowing us – the agency – full disclosure.  About a year after that media opp the company filed for bankruptcy protection and was later bought out. Goal setting needs to be objective, attainable and on message, but if the client isn’t disclosing to you their real self at the beginning, you may achieve the initial goals only to have them deflate before seeing them executed.

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