Friday, October 27, 2006

Know Thy Client 

If there is one task I have not done well in PR, it is knowing clients. I don't mean the facts of businesses. I do that. What I mean is knowing clients' personal histories -- where they come from, what they have done, what their interests are, members in their families, their names.

These details seem insignificant, but they are important to help understand why clients think and act the way they do. The same is true for the media, of course. It is important to know who they are and where they come from. I have shortfalls here too. I'll look up stories a reporter has written over the last few months. I'll look up the person's bio. I won't find out much else about the individual. That's a mistake. Good publicists hang out with the media and find out their detailed likes and dislikes.

I've never really done that in my career. My practice has always been to shape stories tightly against the interests of individuals based on research.

Hanging out is better.

Yes, people have work and private lives and sometimes, the two don't cross. More often than not, however, they do. Good PR practitioners put together facts to explain events and individuals. They aren't conspiracy theorists -- or they shouldn't be. They are careful observers and listeners. Knowing a client in detail is just good observation.

I've still got things to work on to learn this business, but one never really learns it. That's the fun of PR

True. I started as the PR representative for the local Junior City Council I was a member of in 1983, and have worked around Australia and the world. I'm now teaching PR at Deakin University, and I regularly chair industry conferences and visit/interview practitioners. I still have trouble explaining exactly what Public Relations is all about. Almost every practitioner has a different "take" on the profession. But maybe that's the good thing about it. You never know what you'll be doing day-to-day, let alone job-to-job. I think most of us in PR like change...it's a good thing too. Podcasting, blogging, wikis, Second Life, and so on are going to keep us on our toes.

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