Building the Client Relation-“ship”
[This post was written by Katie O’Shea, Content Strategist at 3Points]
If I had to compare the relationship between a PR team and a client to something, I’d say it’s like the relationship between a dinghy and a ship. The proverbial turning of a ship is laborious, time-consuming, and gradual. A dinghy, being small and lightweight, can move and change course quickly through the water. The ship and its progress are ultimately what everyone’s paying attention to, but the dinghy can be deployed as necessary, per the needs of the ship.
Our clients are often like the ship — making changes in communication strategy can be hard for them when they’re focused on steering their whole organization. That’s where we come in. Like the dinghy, which can be attached to the larger ship to aid it as needed, we can become part of the client’s team, ready to work alongside them.
I know this is a bit of an esoteric analogy. I guess journeys were on my mind, as we recently made a trip to our client Serenity Springs, a cabin getaway destination in nearby northwest Indiana. Needless to say, we didn’t take a ship or a dinghy to get there — we opted for the South Shore Line.
We’ve been working with Serenity Springs since January 2017, and, as with all our clients, we began by immersing ourselves in their business. We held an initial meeting at our office with Laura and Rich Ostergren, the co-founders and operators of Serenity Springs, during which we talked through their goals and challenges. We then worked on building familiarity with their brand and communication style, and after that, managing their social platforms and monitoring their online reviews. Pretty soon, we were communicating confidently in their voice, and helping them achieve their goals.
With all our clients, face-to-face interaction is a key part of the relationship. Since Serenity Springs is not located in Chicago, we knew we’d have to find another way to communicate for our regular check-ins. We settled for Skype — though it’s not the same as getting actual face time with a client, it’s an acceptable substitute.
By scheduling regular calls, we have been able to accomplish a lot, but no virtual communication can deliver the same experience of a client’s business operations as an in-person visit. Because the majority of our clients are Chicago-based, we can quickly head to most of their offices for regular meetings or quick brainstorming sessions, or even spend the day working side-by-side with them just to become more immersed in their business. Being onsite at a client’s location exposes you to everyday life for that company — and experiencing firsthand the place and the people who live and breathe the company’s business is something that can’t be replicated. And it helps us better communicate on our client’s behalf.
Though face-to-face communication may seem inconvenient due to busy schedules, it has helped us strengthen our relationships with clients. There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to build trust and understanding.
We’ve learned this lesson from working with various clients over the years, and it has proved true time and time again. Plus, it’s backed up by research: 93% of communication is picked up via non-verbal cues. That suggests that email, phone, and Skype communications are inherently lacking, in a way, and that may be making it more difficult to solidify relationships.
That’s why, despite months of working together virtually, we still wanted to make a trip to Serenity Springs. (Of course, in this case we also wanted to see firsthand the beautiful landscape we had been promoting via blogs and social media!) We decided to make our visit after the close of summer, Serenity Springs’ busiest season.
After a trip on the South Shore Line, we took an easy Uber ride from Michigan City to Serenity Springs’ property. We had a great day participating in all the things that we’d heard were highlights of the Serenity Springs experience — feeding geese, walking through the woods, taking horse-drawn carriage rides, and more.
After all that, there was still time to do some work. We held our regularly-scheduled meeting with the Serenity Springs team, but this time it took place while we were gathered around a table, rather than across state lines and a Skype connection.
At the end of the day, while this visit didn’t change our perception of our client, it deepened our understanding of the people we work with and their day-to-day rhythm — plus it served as a great bonding experience for our own 3Points team. To return to our nautical analogy from earlier, it helped remind all parties that we 3Pointers are on board with our client’s mission and on deck, ready to serve the interests of their organization. And we are excited to continue this voyage together.