The etiquette balance

Talking with fellow PRs recently, the subject of client relations cropped up. As agency employees, we fully understand the importance of good PR etiquette; however, the majority of us agreed this respect is not always reciprocated by clients.

Courteous, ethical and well-mannered communication is key to any relationship, as is transparency and honesty. Clients who hold out on decisions around PR plans and proposals are unknowingly causing their agency sleepless nights; while putting PR work out to tender without informing the incumbent agency is becoming all too frequent in the PR industry.

Of course, the door swings both ways. To ensure a healthy, happy working relationship, it’s imperative that both parties treat each other as they expect to be treated in return. As the old adage goes, it takes two to tango.

We’ve put together a few tips for both clients and PRs below.

PR etiquette:

1) Communicate well and often – while the PR wheels are grinding back in the office, your client might not always realise that’s the case. Not updating your client makes it look like you’re not doing much even when you are. Aim to have three points of contact with your client each week, including an end-of-week activity summary.

2) Don’t harass your client – while a client no doubt understands they aren’t your only client, equally you must realise your client has priorities other than PR. Give them plenty of time to sign off materials and respond to your questions. A little nudge is okay every now and then, but don’t bombard them.

3) Acknowledge correspondence – even if you can’t respond straight away, let your client know that his/her email has been received and noted, and give a time that you’ll get back to them.

Client etiquette:

1) Be considerate – receiving a brief and being asked for an ‘urgent’ proposal is a huge bugbear for PR agencies, especially when said proposal is then ignored for weeks or months.  We’re all for pulling out the stops to help meet a deadline, but 24-hour’s notice is never appreciated.

2) Don’t treat your PR as your PA – while you are a top priority for your PR agency, you are unlikely to be their sole client. Unless you are paying for 100 per cent of their time, bear in mind that other deadlines and clients exist. Please be understanding – we’re only human!

3) Say thanks – it’s a simple yet important gesture. Yes, we’re paid to get you great coverage, but it will only benefit the relationship if you take a second to acknowledge a great result. We’re happy if you’re happy, so let us know that you are.