THE IMPORTANCE OF CLIENT SERVICES/RELATIONS MANAGER IN A PR FIRM

Eric and Donald both started their business ventures in 2016. They both invested heavily in the fashion industry right in the heart of the competitive Lagos City. Eric was miles ahead of Donald in terms of capital expenditure and infrastructure. He bought a large mall facing the broader part of Admiralty Way and was able to sign one of the top designers’ in Lagos into his firm.

Fast forward to four years and Eric had foreclosed on all his fashion outlets in the city, while Donald was opening up another strip mall in Abuja and would be running his sixth fashion show in Calabar this year.

One would wonder why a rich mogul like Eric with so much extensive capital and backdrop was not able to make it in the fashion business, while Donald with less did. It isn’t because Donald had more understanding of the fashion business or that Eric wasn’t business-oriented enough to make headway. The answer lies in the fact that while Eric was signing up top rated designers and taking up space with large infrastructure, Donald instead signed the topmost PR firm in Lagos.

In less than a year, Donald’s firm was hitting waves all over Lagos, stretching to other states and overseas, and making record-breaking annual sales. Eric, on the other hand, was struggling to keep up with public demand and competition.

Public Relations firms are professional service organizations, generally hired to conceive, produce, and manage unpaid messages to the public through the media on behalf of a client, to change the public perception of that brand. Messages are often in the form of news distributed in a non-personal form which may include newspaper, magazine, radio, television, internet, or other forms of media for which the sponsoring organization does not pay a fee.

A public relations firm is independent of the client and provides a third-party perspective on the client’s business, goods, or services. Typical PR firm clients include businesses (sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLC’s) and corporations, non-profit organizations, individuals, and government agencies.

However, no public relations project or campaign goes from storyboard to sales driver by itself. The client services manager is the ad agency executive who guides the campaign-building process. From client communications and workflow to budgets and billing, client services managers have a ton of responsibilities.

A client services manager, also known as a client relationship manager, is a professional who works to build, maintain, and strengthen a company’s relationship with a client. They may work in marketing, advertising, sales, or public relations fields as they manage accounts and ensure they’re meeting clients’ needs.

Generally, client relations managers work with clients to build strategies to overcome any challenges their business or brand may face or be facing. They communicate with clients to better understand what goals they aim to accomplish and demonstrate how their company’s product or service can help them meet these objectives and benefit their brand.

According to Bob Gold of Bob Gold & Associates of Redondo Beach, California, “a good PR agency is a strategic partner who helps clients successfully talk to and with their audiences. A PR agency is a good listener to the marketplace and knows which conversation starters will work, and also what might just catch fire.”

The importance of client service or relationship managers in PR firms cannot be overemphasized. In 2018, Forbes reported that businesses lost over $75 billion due to poor client services. This article was according to the numbers derived from the New Voice Media’s 2018 “Serial Switcher’s” report.

The goal of a client relationship manager is to build a culture of relationship with clients based on trust and value and not only on price. This helps create strong barriers to competition. Clients who know they can trust a particular business are more likely to return even if a less familiar or less trusted competitor offers a lower price.

In short, the client services manager is accountable for all aspects of the delivery of work to the client. Client services managers are problem-solvers who analyze markets and help advertisers develop business goals for their goods and services.

Client relationship managers work with senior executives, sales managers, technical managers, finance directors, and others who make or influence sales decisions. They also may work directly with clients to address problems or overcome other obstacles.

Client relationship managers also monitor industry trends to identify new sales opportunities and to brief the product development and sales teams to meet client needs. They use the data they collect to establish revenue targets and identify the resources needed to meet them. Research also is important to analyze competitor trends and assess potential threats to the firm’s relationships with clients.

Another role for client relationship managers is to organize training, planned maintenance, and other services to help clients get better and more efficient use from products or services. They also might help set up online ordering and payment systems that simplify the commercial arrangements with clients.

The detriment of hiring a poor PR firm or an ineffective client services manager can be viewed from the following examples of major business crises in 2019.

#MeToo campaign of Razor Gillette

The razor company believed it had a perfect PR idea when it launched commercial admonishing men to be “better,” despise toxic masculinity and treat women with respect. However, the well-meaning ad spot walked over a heap of eggshells after release.

A lot of reviews viewed the ad’s marketing message to be a large contrast of its previous messages, while others criticized that the shaving brand should never have been involved with movements such as the #MeToo campaign.

At the time of publishing, Gillette’s video had more than 3 million views and 265,000 “dislikes”—six times more than the number of people who “liked” the video.

The controversy highlights the risk organizations take when including a stance on social or political issues in its marketing messages. The groundwork had not been laid for Gillette’s ad to have the right impact, and consumers felt blindsided by the brand’s razor-sharp point of view, a stance it had never taken before. Client relations managers make sure that their audiences are ready to listen before taking a stand on a big issue 

The Boeing 737 Max Crisis

After two tragic crashes and hundreds of lost lives, it was finally revealed that Boeing hadn’t alerted operators about all the new features on its latest popular aeroplane. The autopilot system that engaged during takeoff was susceptible to error—and pilots were furious that they hadn’t been warned.

The Boeing CEO [Dennis] Muilenburg was reported to have insisted on the president and others that the aircraft are safe.

The plane was grounded and has yet to return to the skies. The problem was amplified for Boeing because the 737 was one of its most popular models and airlines around the world were forced to cancel flights and remove destinations from service while they waited for a fix.

A lack of transparency and a failure to listen dashed any of Boeing’s early attempts to address public concerns. The airline must now hope it can regain the trust of aviators and passengers alike—which cannot be wished with a swish and flick.

The bulk of this work lies in the hands of the client service managers and board.

In conclusion, according to Wilcox, Ault, and Agee (1992), “A corporation may operate in a completely legal, technically sound and financially efficient manner, and yet find itself viewed by segments of the public as cold, greedy and heedless of cherished social values” As a result, the public relations practitioner’s job is to see that this does not happen. He must work within the company to foster constructive, socially aware behaviour and outside the company to convince the public that the firm is a worthy, caring, corporate citizen.

Written by: Zannu, Jesse.