Tracey Mendrek, Senior Consultant

As PR professionals we are experts at knowing what path to take in a given situation.  This is knowledge we have gained through years of repetition, research and review.  We sit down with our client the first time and we know what they should do.  But, do we know what to do when the client is at this crossroad and can’t let go of the past to embrace the future?

This time of year brings many people to a crossroad.  How do you let that first grader walk through the school doors the first time?  How do you let your 18-year-old leave for college?  How do you say goodbye to the MLB player you absolutely loved after the trade deadline sends him to another team? How do you leave your 21-year-old at school when all you can remember is that first grader?   Surely these life experiences have taught our clients something.  Right?

Well, right and wrong, I suppose.  Like the aforementioned life experiences, transitioning to the next step in the PR continuum is challenging and requires the client to let new ideas blossom and grow.  Some clients just innately get it; those are the ones with the properly framed “old” PR initiatives hanging in the foyer.  Be it a logo idea, a successful campaign from 1996 or a press clipping documenting a major PR strategy.  But for sure they are the in the minority as clients go.

Much more challenging are the clients who just can’t bear to see the end of an era, the end of a CEO’s rein or the shift to a new PR strategy.  So how do we help them to take the road less traveled?  

A good PR professional will tell you that the best ideas are the ones the client can embrace as their own.  Of course, a well-planted seed allows the idea to form, but nonetheless the client takes ownership.  In much the same way as a parent must let go of a child, a client must let go of a PR strategy that has reached maturity.  We must work with our clients to chart a course that is not too much of a reach or too far from home base.  Examples of great success are key to making the transition easier.  Additionally, helping the client to become comfortable with the new surroundings, while incorporating some of the creature comforts of home help with the letting go process.  

The old adage: Crawl, Walk, Run applies here.  Unless there is a need to run to a new PR strategy it is best not to miss the first two steps.  Encourage your client to see the hard work it has taken to get where they are today.  Help them to envision the new strategy and trust the homework that was done to get there.  And finally, with great comfort and joy let go….