The season of festivities, goodwill and... client reviews

We are quickly getting submerged by December festivities, full of goodwill and mulled wine, but this only means one thing for the PR industry - end of year reviews and proposals.

In order to keep the festive cheer flowing and to avoid getting overwhelmed with reviews, here are some top tips to make the process as pain-free as possible.

1. Always be honest

If any issues need to be addressed, it is best to be honest, confront the problem head on and, most importantly, always provide a solution. Due to the nature of our industry, there can be unexpected situations that affect the success of a piece of work. So if something hasn’t gained as much coverage as expected, you must make sure your client understands why, as well as laying out how to avoid a repeat.

Although we do our best to mitigate these situations, sometimes they can be unavoidable. But by being honest with your client, and yourself, you will be able to analyse results and identify areas that can be improved, while also reviewing how to build on your successes.

2. Start in month one not month 12

The best thing about an annual review is that you can see it coming for 365 days. In management terms, this means that there is no excuse not to be prepared. Reviews are there both to celebrate results and to justify business spend on your service, so don’t sell yourself short.

Give yourself enough time to evaluate activity thoroughly. Collating results on a monthly basis ensures nothing gets missed and you have enough time to do what really matters – review last year’s activity and plan for the next.

3. Speak your client’s language

Communication is inherent in our industry and comes naturally, but what many businesses fail to do is successfully communicate results back to their clients. All clients have different business objectives, and therefore have different things they want to achieve out of PR.

Translating PR results back into something relatable is essential – sometimes AVE simply isn’t enough. Businesses are continually looking at budgets for efficiency, especially around review time; communicating back the results that matter to a client’s objectives shows how your service is helping them, and makes proving your worth easier. ROI, referrals to the website, KPIs or industry share of voice could make all the difference to presenting PR activity – simply providing the total amount of coverage achieved across the year may not do you justice.

4. Sometimes less is more… sometimes

Identifying how your client likes to receive information is a task that is well worth the investment and can be used throughout the year, at any meeting. Is your client a detail person, or do they prefer core information only? And, if you are presenting to a number of people with different styles of communication, it is important to appeal to everyone.

If in doubt, it is best to over-prepare. However, failing to understand how they communicate can cause ‘lights out’ and putting your client into a results-based coma is hardly the outcome you’re after. It is your priority to make sure your client fully understands what you’re saying; it won’t be their priority to decipher it.

5. Approach them like a new client

As well as assessing the previous year’s work, review meetings give you the perfect opportunity to plan for next year. Working with a client year-on-year can obviously have its advantages, but don’t forget to think laterally.

At Smarts, we approach all our reviews as if we are thinking about a new client. For a creative agency, the last thing you want to be seen as is static and unimaginative and becoming complacent with a client that has been around for years can be dangerous territory.

As a colleague once said to me, a client that is happily ticking along is a client that needs serious attention.

Putting our top tips for the review season into practice may mean that you can put your feet up with a cup of tea and a mince pie after all.

Rebecca Scully is managing director at Smarts PR

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