Three Things Not to Say to Your Clients
Author: Tom Carpenter
October 30, 2018
Platitudes can come in handy. Even professional communicators will sometimes rely on these communication shortcuts.
For example, in public relations, you have to be careful when discussing strategy with clients. They won’t always have the full context behind your recommendations and approach, which can hinder a PR program overall. Without care, you’ll find yourself slipping back into clichés to try and communicate.
Now, sometimes a good cliché will indeed go a long way. Not always, though.
Even if it sounds innocent, the wrong turn of phrase can send signals that unnecessarily undermine confidence in good ideas and set the wrong expectations. Like a bad first date, your client may not even realize why they don’t feel great about the relationship anymore…but the damage will be done.
Watch out for the words you choose on your next client call. In particular, start with these three phrases that can decrease client appreciation and even damage client relationships:
‘The low-hanging fruit’
Never suggest that anything about communications is easy. It devalues the hard work your team does every day. You may see an opportunity for early inroads on a pitch, but describing it this way sets an expectation that success is merely table stakes.
What’s more, in this business there is no low-hanging fruit. A graphic the art team threw together may take off, while a white paper that research labored over for months may fall flat. Or it might happen the other way around.
In communications each message takes effort, and success can come from unexpected places. Don’t set your client’s expectations otherwise.
‘If only we had been able to…’
Here’s the difference between explanations and excuses–one offers a way forward, the other stares into the rearview mirror and unnecessarily indicts either your client or you.
Pleading that better results would have come “if only” begs the question: why didn’t we try this successful tactic to begin with? Why are we just discussing it now?
Take advantage of every setback by finding new opportunities for client coverage. Explain what was learned, and always offer a new idea as a result.
You may think it. You may feel it. Just don’t say it.
“Unfortunately” may be one word, but it leaks defeat from every syllable. It suggests that you made mistakes instead of practicing a complicated trade in a dynamic marketplace. It suggests that you didn’t really have control over the outcome and that you’re closing the books on this opportunity with no ideas for next steps.
That’s a lot to pack into 13 letters.
Your client wants to see you focused on the future. Keep the conversation on how your team will get where it’s going.
And remember that in communication every word matters, especially when communicating with clients. Don’t fall back on platitudes and clichés. They aren’t as harmless as they seem.