Think about all of your relationships in life. Parents, siblings, significant others, friends, neighbors, co-workers. All of these relationships are wonderfully different, yet they have an essential common thread – they take work.
Most would agree that relationships cannot begin, grow or thrive without investment in the other person. Relationships require genuine interest in what others like and do, events that impact them, and they exist in some balance of reciprocity. It takes time, energy and effort to make relationships successful.
These relational truths are important to how we interact with those close to us, so why should we approach them any differently in the business world? As public relations practitioners, our job is to build relationships – with media, with clients, with other stakeholders. To land an in-depth magazine feature or the trust of a client or an investor, we have to be committed to the relationship.
Being a strong relationship partner is valuable. It requires doing our research, thoroughly getting to know our clients, learning their business and history, following through on promises (be it day-to-day deliverables or achieving a greater strategic goal) and providing counsel and support when questions or problems arise.
I personally have seen the benefits of investing in and listening to clients or media contacts. In one instance, a client regularly confided in me that his team had questions regarding social media use and how he believed his company should approach the issue. Social media was not included in our scope of work, but in hearing my client’s need, and after doing some background research on what social media looked like in his industry, I proposed creating a recurring internal report to coach his team on best practices and social media applications specific to the company. My client was excited about this solution, but more so that I intuitively understood his needs. This insight could only come from an established, ongoing relationship. It earned my team a stronger connection with our client – and more projects.
Relationships are at the core of communications. While not easily measured for ROI, strong business relationships are what make a successful communications practice. This isn’t a new concept, but it can be easy to get caught up in big ideas, campaign tactics and logistics and forget that, really, at the root of every communications task is the essential function of building strong relationships.
If you do the proper work, you can elevate your business relationship status from “It’s Complicated” to something more committed. In doing so, you’ll see that the investment leads to stronger results and a lasting impression every time.
— Hannah Covelli, account director, public relations