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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How far should we go in handholding a Client?

Yesterday we had an internal disagreement on the extent that one should go in guiding a client. The disagreement centered around an article which we thought would be difficult to place in the media in the format that it came in. The person servicing the account felt that since we do article writing we should pitch in and mould the article to suit our purposes. The problem was that this was a technical field and though the article was nicely put, the writer was not summing up. There was no way we could structure the article ourselves.

This set me thinking as to how far do we go as consultants in handholding the client. Do we write complete articles for our clients? More importantly do we have the technical expertise for such things. We generally advise our clients on a lot of things like what to speak, how to address, even what to wear but sometimes one has to tread cautiously.

There was this big client of ours which was looking at merger and acquisition activity and fund raising. Given my background as a Chartered Accountant and the fact that we had been working very closely with the client for three years, I was inducted into the Financial Committee which was overseeing the entire activity. This was perhaps a first for any PR agency and gave us a high, but when at a certain point things were not working to the plan, effort was made to make us the scapegoats since we were outsiders. Also we were putting in huge amount of extra effort not in our mandate and were deriving no monetary gain.

Then there was this time when the Director of one of our clients wanted to invite the Page 3 media for one of his party since he wanted to be seen as a socialite. We had to put our foot down and explain to him bluntly that this was not in keeping with the image of the organisation as a serious player in its category. The Director still nurtures the ambition of seeing his pics on Page 3 and mentions this at every conceivable opportunity.

This brings me to the questions that I began with - how far should we go? Should we cater to every whim and fancy of our client? How far should we go beyond our mandated work?

I guess there are no easy answers to these questions. Most of the PR proponents might differ with me and say, we should do whatever it takes to appease our client. Some of them may even go to he extent of saying that apple polishing is one of the core mantras that a PR professional must practice.

I differ on this and feel that while we may go beyond our mandate but these must be occasionally and the client should know this. If the activities are done on a regular basis then we risk not being compensated and also being made the fall guys in crunch situations.

1 comment:

  1. Corporates hire outside consultants to satisfy their whims and fancies. The idea should be to get an outside view of the policies they adopt and not to massage their ego's.

    It is high time that we as an Industry should adopt some principals and categorically start denying what is not right.