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Hey, PR Agencies: Do You Know How to Manage the Expectations of Your Clients? Here are 6 Tips

MBrammer Headshot (3)By Michelle Brammer, Director of Marketing, eZanga

The path to a long-lasting relationship with your client ends abruptly if you fail to meet the client’s expectations. As an agency, it’s crucial for you to not only fulfill your promises, but to consistently exceed them.

Your clients will often expect overnight success from their PR campaigns. That’s not how it works. We know that, but your clients might still be dissatisfied when those expectations are shattered.

Expectation management is a fine art that every account manager should master. Hone your client-relation skills with some of these helpful tips.

  1. Learn Your Client’s Campaign Goals

In order to manage your client’s expectations, you must have a grasp on what their expectations actually are. Get into your client’s head, get to know their business and what they’re trying to achieve with their public relations.

This may seem obvious, but clients often don’t communicate their true goals to their account manager. You may be working towards a certain set of campaign goals, using metrics that have little importance to your client.

The last thing you want is to spend copious time pitching them for thought-leadership opportunities, when in reality all they wanted was a press release and some local community attribution.

Have a discussion with your client. Understand their overarching campaign goals, maybe even their boss’s goals. How is your client’s performance evaluated? Once you’re aware of what your client needs to accomplish, you can tailor their PR campaign to match their true expectations.

And don’t ever stop doing this. Consistently ask for feedback from your client. Adapt to their changing goals and the evolving industry environment.

  1. Educate Your Client

Before your client is able to form their own expectations about you, give them the run-down on what you’re able to bring to the table. Tell them what PR services you’re able to provide, how you do it, and what results you expect from their campaign.

The goal is to set the client’s expectations yourself. Without the right knowledge of what you offer and how you work, they may have unrealistic expectations you’ll never reach. If you walk them through your own expectations and educate them on how your process works, you’ll have a hand in building their expectations of you.

Many clients expect too much from us. Your goal is to level their expectations into something more realistic and manageable.

On the opposite end, their expectations may be low. Perhaps they’re achieving lackluster performance while doing their own PR, and you show that you can triple their results by taking a little control. This way, you manage their public image and build expectations for them that are closer to what you can deliver.

  1. Communicate Your Goals for the Campaign

The best agencies strive to keep their clients for the long haul by consistently delivering the best results possible. The account manager’s campaign goals should align near perfectly to the client’s.

It’s the agency’s job to communicate this. A client who feels like a low priority may have different expectations of you, and may feel cheated when those expectations aren’t achieved.

This also involves communicating frequently. If your client’s expectations are falling short, tell them why you think it’s happening, and offer tips on how to solve it. If you’re proactive in helping the client have more newsworthy events and media placements, they’ll be more likely to share with you long-term strategy and goals.

Work to be on the client’s team. Don’t give once-and-gone goals. Set up a road map, chart out the growth of the relationship, and work with the client to grow together as a team. After all, PR is a marathon, not a sprint.

  1. Underpromise, but Overdeliver

If you frequently underdeliver, your clients will simply leave you. Your reputation will tank alongside your performance. To combat this, make sure you always deliver results above what you promise.

Do this by underpromising. Promise results you know you can achieve. If you hope to deliver five media placements from a client’s recent survey, but know you can deliver three, it’s better to set their expectations for three media placements.

Then, if you do get all five placements, you’ll look like a hero.

Another tip: set their expectations in a range. If you consistently achieve higher than your low target, your client may start to expect you to always overdeliver. Instead, tell them you can achieve anywhere from two to four media placements on a PR campaign. You want to strive for five or more, but if you do happen to fall short, you would still fall in the range of results you said you’d deliver.

After all, results vary. You want to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Keep the client in that mindset, too.

  1. Focus on Positive Trends

Great results take time. Not everyone understands that. You can’t expect placement in the New York Times overnight (even though some clients do). This is especially true in PR.

It takes time to build up brand recognition for a smaller organization. For more well-known companies, media placements may be plentiful, but more time may be spent on reputation management over a budding new company. Whether you’re dealing with an experienced media client or a PR newbie, it’s important to reiterate positive PR placements and how that affects their end goals.

Focus on growth and positive trends in your PR campaigns. Communicate to the client that this is a journey, and show the positive effects of your work on the growth towards the client’s goals. Stop your client from focusing on day-to-day activity, and bring their attention to the weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals you’ve helped them reach.

If you focus too much on one set of goals, they may expect results sooner rather than later. Work with them in the long-term, and show them the increasing positive impact you have on their campaign.

  1. Build Your Client Relationships

These tips all boil down to one overarching goal for the agency: focus on the long-term client relationship. Communicate frequently and personally with your clients. Show them you’re working alongside them for the long-run.

After all, you want to keep the client investing in you for their current PR efforts. And you want to be their go-to agency for the next campaign.

Keep your goals aligned, magnify the importance of the client’s growth, consistently over-deliver on your promises, and keep your client educated on what you can realistically accomplish. These all work in tandem to build a long-lasting relationship, one where the the client cares more about their long-term growth than their short term expectations.

When you build this level of trust with your clients, it’s hard to ever let them down.

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