We’ve all been there: you hit it off with someone new, you agree to take it to the next stage, and you get ready to begin what looks like a beautiful new relationship. But at some point down the line—a few months, a year, maybe a few years—something goes wrong, and the relationship comes to an end. From tech startup to consumer goods, it happens to the best PR pros, no matter how much experience and expertise we have in the field.
Well, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late. I’m here to share my list of top “fireable” offenses to avoid—or how to lose a client in ten days, if you will.
1. Not double checking
For typos in documents, for client names in emails, for links to Google Docs…anytime we don’t proofread something that goes to the client, a reporter or anyone at all, we risk missing an important error that can make us look sloppy and unprofessional.
2. Lack of strategy
Seeing the bigger picture ahead of big announcements is something that PR firms are hired to do. We should be looking ahead to the next three months, six months and even the next few years, taking into consideration how the company plans to grow and expand with new personnel, more physical locations and advancements to their technologies. And, of course, financial plans like funding, acquisitions and a potential IPO are noteworthy milestones.
3. Lack of creative ideas
Whether it’s a catchy slogan (“Women of New York: Frost Yourselves!”) or a new partnership, clients look to us to help them stand out above their competitors. We often get caught in formulaic procedures for initiatives, but I challenge you to think creatively and add some sizzle to the news.
4. Inconsistent account team
One of the most commonly asked questions we hear before signing a contract is, “Who will be on the team?” Clients want to know who is going to be representing them, and when there is frequent account team turnover, it’s alarming. Consistency is key to making sure the client feels understood and important.
5. No senior presence on account
At Bospar, we have at least one principal and a vice president on each account, ensuring that the client will be supported by some team members with many years of experience.
6. Lack of communication with the client
Even if it’s a simple end-of-the-day media update email, clients like to know what’s happening, so make sure to keep them updated via email, phone, Slack, or any other form of communication they prefer.
7. Not being responsive
PR is 24/7, and if you clicked on this blog post, you likely already know that. We’re both fortunate and cursed that so much of our work can be done remotely, and that has become even more so the case as everyone moved their offices to their homes this past year. But not responding to client requests in a timely manner is a major red flag for a professional in the business of communications.
8. Not meeting KPIs
KPIs are like a love fern: a barometer for the relationship. And if you don’t meet them, you might as well have killed it. Just make sure to agree upon the KPIs before you kick off the work.
9. Not getting smart
I get it. It’s difficult to be an expert on all of our clients’ technologies. But understanding what they do and why it makes them better than the rest is essential in strategy development and media relations. So, ask for demos from the sales team and engineers, watch YouTube videos about topics you aren’t yet familiar with, and read the blog posts on the client’s website.
10. Being reactive rather than proactive
Finally, I leave you with one last tip: get ahead of the game. Anticipate breaking news before it happens and draft drawer quotes to pitch as soon as there’s a story for your client. There’s nothing worse than getting a call asking why a competitor was included in an article and not them. Plan for national holidays or stories you know reporters will be looking for, such as trends for the new year, relationship stories for Valentine’s Day, and travel data for the summer months. Prepare for a story before it becomes news. And then prepare for the next one.
It’s a daunting list, but if you take my advice and avoid these mistakes, you will set the stage for a long-lasting relationship with your clients.