Lately, we’ve noticed a trend in regard to the content many experts seem to put out these days – most is about the new hot social media tool or best-practices in usage. There is also a lot of information floating around about managing through particular issues, like crisis. However, the one thing doesn’t get addressed very often among the webinars and expert advice seems to be related to account services – skills and tools that should be inherent to every professional who works in an agency environment.
Inevitably (usually sooner rather than later), there comes a time when we are faced with a problematic situation, and with it comes the task of having to inform the client of what went wrong and why. How can we go about delivering news in a way that is digestible and not detrimental to the overall relationship?
First things first…
In the early stages of a potential “situation,” keep the client as informed as possible. Not only does this help to diminish the possibility of escalation, it helps to manage the client’s expectations. Think of your client as you would your partner. Wouldn’t you want to know as early as possible if something was going wrong? Combined brain power and or resources could also help prevent an issue from worsening.
What if it’s an unforeseen problem?
If something occurs completely out of left field, the same rule as above applies in terms of notifying the client, however the method of which you go about doing it should change. While email seems to have become the preferred method of communication these days, when larger issues arise, a direct phone call is the best way to go. A more direct line drives a sense of urgency and removes any possible opportunity for misinterpretation.
And about that call…
Prior to that phone call, touch base with your internal team (quickly) and prepare to come up with solutions! Preparedness and a defined solution will help alleviate client stress and instill confidence. Expertise is the value you bring as a public relations professional, so come to the table with suggestions and a proactive approach.
Be realistic on outcome.
Some things have gone wrong, you’ve come with solutions AND the client has agreed to them, so now what? Put those plans into action, set defined and realistic goals, and provide adjusted timelines. While you might feel inclined to take on an ambitious solution, don’t over-promise on the end result. As a post-mortem, identify the key learnings and takeaways and what you could have done better, and apply them with gusto to the next project you take on!
Do you have a unique approach to dealing with difficult, client-facing situations? Let us know by tweeting us @DEVENEYnola using the #DEVchat hashtag.