Dennis Culloton, President and CEO
I recently stated in a Sun Times article that I love all my clients but sometimes they listen to all my advice, sometimes they listen to some of my advice, and sometimes they listen to none of my advice. This statement has been true since my days in law school and I’ve learned this the hard way over the course of my career. Regardless of which end of the spectrum a client falls, we are no less obligated to offer zealous representation and fight for each of our clients.
As scary as it sounds, PR professionals – especially those of us who practice issue and crisis management – have to think like lawyers. We need to stay calm in the middle of a storm and draw on our negotiating skills to convince a client that our strategy is the best course of action. Appeal to their sense of self-preservation and make them see why the plan is in their best interest.
We have a responsibility to fulfill our role as a spokesman or communications strategist by creating what we believe to be the best possible plan.
When the client steps in front of the camera for an interview, just as they would get on the witness stand to testify, they should feel prepared knowing how they should (or should not) respond to sensitive questions. Consider what the other side may be waiting to pounce on, and make sure the strategy stands up to it. The PR pros are the objective, rational voice while our clients are often emotional, living in the moment and unable to see the bigger picture.
When a client throws a carefully crafted plan or statement out the window, it can be frustrating. But it is your job to continue crafting anyway, and roll with the punches with the plan changes. And when it does, you re-assess the situation, adapt the strategy and always keep the same end goal in mind: the best possible result for the client. The hardest part is staying motivated when you begin to get the feeling your advice will not be taken, whether in part or in full. Take it from me, it happens. Stay the course and make your case. Think strategically always and hope your client can learn – sometimes the hard way – to take your counsel the next time.