1. Lead, follow, or just get out of the way
It’s important to read people, and equally important to read situations. Sometimes you have the unpleasant experience of realizing you may have stepped in too aggressively—or not aggressively enough—and find you have to correct your course.
There is no right way to step into a new client/agency relationship to ensure that it’s healthy and for the long term. However, you can sharpen your emotional intelligence and gain experience in working with people. Additionally, nothing beats clear communication with your team. Rely on senior management to be your mentors (and help them help you).
2. No surprises
Whether it’s concepts, scopes of work, bills or budgets, there should be no surprises between you and your client. At least, no surprises coming from your end.
3. No understudies on game day
Most PR pros can remember a time in their career where they just wanted to shine. It’s a natural feeling. Maybe it was a time when your idea, tagline or concept was going to be pitched. And you wanted to lead the discussion or close the sale. Sometimes, though, you have to reality-check your situation and understand that veteran presenters will be the ones presenting. It’s glitzy, but it really is a lot of hard work. When it’s “game day,” time to present or pitch to a new client, be supportive, but know you might not be the star.
Inversely, for the more senior folks in the industry, groom your understudies. You wanted to be nurtured and given opportunities to shine, so spread the love when you can. Develop your colleagues so that when the time comes, you can be the supportive one and watch your protégé shine.
4. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand
This was my favorite learning from our bootcamp. Even in nonprofessional relationships, when someone shares news with me (happy or sad), my impulse is to do something. Drive somewhere, call someone, cook something, write and send something . . . the list goes on. Marketing and public relations seem to attract people who are natural doers. A client tells us something, and then we do it.
But sometimes, a client just needs to talk, vent or go freeform in sharing all of the potential projects coming up and just know he or she is being listened to. On my part, knowing that not every conversation is a cause-and-effect, “if this, then do that” situation is crucial. And that’s okay.
5. Either you run the day or the day runs you
Where would I be in life if I had this mantra and practice down pat at around age 22? I’ll never know. Things come up unexpectedly, and when every day is different, that can be joyful. However, the buck stops with you when it comes to your workflow. Being responsible with your work, knowing when to move on and knowing when to stay out of something will let you leave the office at the end of the day knowing you’ve accomplished something and return the next day knowing what you want to do.