When a patient goes to a psychologist or therapist, more often than not, they fall into one of two categories:
- They know they need help with something, they pursued the treatment, and they want to be there.
- They are there because they have to be, or have been made to feel that they have to be. They are looking to end the arrangement as soon as they are “better.”
According to Philip Lesley, the same can be said of most clients and companies that seek public relations counsel. Some clients partnered with public relations firms willingly sought the counsel to assist in doing something valued, and to help reach a goal. These, we call eager clients. Other clients partnered with a firm out of need or necessity, and have no real intent of maintaining a relationship. These are reluctant clients, and also include clients that keep hired counsel to do work they consider annoying, or don’t wish to do. Of course, not all clients fit directly within the two groups, but after an initial consultation, a feeling toward where they sit can often be acquired.
As such, the way public relations counsel must approach a potential client – and goes about trying to keep current clients on their payroll – varies greatly based upon the eagerness or reluctance of the client. This starts with how the counsel goes about selling themselves to the clients. While an eager client would be interested in a detailed explanation of all the services you offer, the same pitch and self-promotion could make a reluctant client wary. To him, boasts of skills, experience, and services may look only like unwanted dollar signs.
Lesley suggests that when it comes to pitching reluctant clients, it is best to focus only on the task or issue they want handled at the time. Mention of other services you can offer them, in hopes of retaining them in the future, should wait until you have already impressed the client and/or gained their trust.
As a rule, the nature of pitching clients is largely subjective and will, more often than not, require adaptability on the part of the publicist. Demonstrate that you can give the client what they want at the time, and judge how much to sell your other services based on your perception of the client. Always be prepared to alter your approach based on nonverbal queues like facial expression and body language.
In end, when it comes to reluctant clients, you are not always going to be successful; that’s part of the job. However, if you vary your tactics and pinpoint what type of client it is that you’re dealing with, you will likely have more success than otherwise.
References: Lesley, Philip. 1979. Psychology and public relations counseling. Public Relations Review 5, (3): 3-9