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Recession tip: client relations

February 11, 2008

The latest spin on the recession story is that it will be the shortest and shallowest recession in post-World War II history. Good news.

But then I come across this gem in AdAge, “PR ‘Had a Good Run,’ but Agencies Expect Growth to Slow.” Michael Bush reported on the recent survey results by the Council of Public Relations Firms, which predicts slower growth this year:

Nevertheless, most of the 62 agencies queried are looking at this year’s economy with some trepidation. Eighty-four percent project growth of 8% to 10% in 2008. In 2007, average growth was 12.3%. In 2006, it was 13.9%. And the council’s figures aren’t the only indicator that growth is slowing. Investment bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson is forecasting growth of 9.9%.

Cause for concern if you toil away day-to-day in the agency world? Perhaps but the sky is certainly far from falling folks. It may be plummeting in the home building, real estate and hospitality industries, but not in PR.

If you’re still not convinced, I offer then a few silly easy tips to recession proof your agency by focusing on the Crown Jewels – your paying clients.

1. Touch base and call all of your clients on Monday. Do not wait until Wednesday. And more importantly, don’t just focus on the tactical, deliverable deadlines, team actions, etc. Mondays are chalk full of news so talk about what’s on the media agenda and how your client can participate. Think strategic. It’s easy to replace an outsourced admin.
2. When you are speaking on the phone with your client, yes, the phone, don’t IM your colleague or forward an email or surf the Web. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. LISTEN to what your client has to say.
3. Ask for feedback on everything you deliver to the client. Knowing where you stand today will help prevent surprises tomorrow.
4. Chances are strong that the client hired your team for its creative juices. So go ahead and let them flow. Don’t let the mid-February blues lull you and your client to sleep. Deliver a new press release idea or a plan to achieve the BHAG you discussed at the kickoff meeting.
5. Help your client look good in front of his/her customers. If you manage a customer reference PR program, make a few more calls this week. Be more aggressive in following up and getting them to engage in PR. Happy customers will make even happier clients. And, as a result, you and your boss will be quite happy as well.
6. Spend $50 and get that Wall Street Journal article featuring your client framed and sent to them before the end of February.

If you don’t act now, I stand corrected – you should be concerned and the sky may, in fact, be falling.

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