The PR-Marketing dilemma. To take the client or not

We get lots of calls from nonprofit organizations asking us to be their PR firm. While the lifeblood of any consulting business is having a full client load, over the years we have learned that it is preferable to turn down a client than enter into a bad client relationship.

What’s a bad client relationship?  It’s simply a client that we can not make happy.  Or, it’s a client that we don’t wholeheartedly agree with.

After decades in the PR business, we can pretty much tell from a first conversation if we can make a client happy.  First, if the organization tells us about their many former PR firms that they fired because they were “no good,” that is a red flag.  Or, if the client starts rattling off the media outlets they expect to be on in the first month, we often will try to bring them down to earth.  If we can’t, we politely say we’re not a right fit.

Client relationships are like a marriage.  Once the contract is signed, we take the relationship seriously and work hard to perform.  We don’t like to fail, and rarely do, mainly because we don’t take clients when we know we can’t succeed.

Honestly, this surprises some organizations who call.  They immediately assume every PR firm will jump at the chance to represent them, after all, they are willing to pay a fee.  We like being paid, but not if our reputation is at stake.

For every client we accept, we turn away one.  That’s about the ratio.  We’re not picky or difficult to work with.  We’re easy.  We just want our clients to win, and we want to get them there.  It doesn’t do us or them any good if we can’t meet their expectations.

So while we are careful what clients to accept, clients should be equally careful what PR firm to hire.  You want a firm with skills, and a passion for your cause.  If they’re just in it for the money, our suggestion is find another firm to represent you.