Seeing red: keeping the peace with the client

We find ourselves telling the client what they want to hear, not what they need to hear, says Andy Shaw, account director at Kindred.

Andy Shaw: account director at Kindred
Andy Shaw: account director at Kindred

We live in a world of specialists. In fact, it is specialists who make our world go round. Where would we be without them?

It was while sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery that I hit upon two interesting questions. Firstly, what is it about doctors’ waiting rooms that seems to make it OK for the male species to read a well-thumbed copy of OK magazine?

Secondly, when it comes to the PR industry, does the consultation its many specialists provide hold the same weight as that given by those in other industries?

Let me illustrate my point a little. Having been given a full MOT by my doctor, I was told that I’m in good nick for an early thirtysomething and given a prescription for a very minor ailment.

Throughout the experience I felt in no way motivated to question the advice given – after all, they’re the specialists, right? 

Applying this same logic to my own industry, I started to think about the tricky tightrope we PR specialists have to walk when it comes to our own ‘patients’. On the whole, our professional opinions and advice are highly valued by the clients for whom we work. However, every now and again we will know the awkwardness that comes with a client who is constantly immune to our advice. We quickly find ourselves being drawn into a situation of telling the client what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. Our capacity as a specialist, if  we’re not careful, can quickly become cheapened.

Far be it for me to compare PR consultants with those working in the medical professions: after all, it’s PR not ER that we do. However, when faced with this situation we need to remind ourselves where we would be if doctors tried to appease their patients.

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