Q: I've just had a disturbing call from a client who is unhappy
with the person servicing her account. The executive is one of my best.
I don't want to upset my staff by moving them off, but if I don't, I
risk losing the business. What should I do to sort this out?
Mr. E, Los Angeles
A: PR is a people business and relationships are crucial. While the
happiness of your staff is important, this is a service industry you're
working in and keeping the customer satisfied is vital. I asked Michael
Nyman, president of Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, for his advice. He
recommends finding out what the issues are and changing the staff member
if necessary. He adds that he would explain to the client that this
person was a highly valued part of the team. 'The answer might be to put
a second person on the account and make the problem person less
He suggests that the personality conflict could be resolved by having
the account person do less client management and more media
If your account person is really not getting along with the client, then
they're likely to sense a personality issue and may prefer working on
Q: I was an assistant to a senior PR person who's been fired and I've
been told to step into her role as a result of cost-cutting
I'm totally unprepared and dealing with lots of negative calls as a
result of these cutbacks. I'm not sure how to deal with the pressure.
Ms. C, New York
A: Stepping into your boss' shoes is no easy job. But since you've been
thrown into the deep end you may as well rise to the challenge.
First, get an early start and make a list of all your priorities for the
day, then tackle them and reorder them as the day goes on. Don't shy
away from tough press calls. Not answering the phone is no answer. Here
is your opportunity to make a name for yourself with both the management
and the media.
Establish yourself as the main point of contact with the media so the
messages don't get confused.
Allocate blocks of time for certain key tasks. Since your firm has been
getting some bad press, you need to come up with something positive as a
Try and get your staff to e-mail you with interesting tidbits to deflect
attention from your own difficult situation.
Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you have an agency, ask for
their advice and support. And the same goes with your manager, who knows
you're doing the company a favor.
Q: I organized a conference call with my chief executive for a Wall
Street Journal reporter who didn't put the phone down at the end. As a
result, she overheard bits of our conversation involving sensitive
company information. I'm trying to negotiate with the reporter to leave
it out of her report, but I'm not having much luck. How can I explain
this to my boss?
Ms. J, Cleveland
A: Ouch. A tricky one. You're not the only one who has made mistakes,
though. I know someone whose corporate PR strategy was revealed on a
reporter's voice mail by accident, after they arranged a three-way phone
Depending on the nature of the information, you may be required to
disclose it publicly. Alternatively, talk to your boss about other
information that you might 'swap.' Better yet, try to come up with
another story to tempt the journalist, and show what a valuable source
you can be in the future.