Figuring out how to deal with an unresponsive client is a problem almost all account managers and directors encounter.
You have a great idea for a hook or a campaign, or there’s an urgent piece of correspondence you need to get approved. You email it to the client and then, nothing.
You send a follow up email. Nothing. You send another. Nothing. You give them a call. They’re very apologetic. Yes, they say, they'll look at it straight away. But still nothing. So you email again. Nothing.
This problem is surprisingly common. Yet most lobbyists and PR professionals struggle to deal with it.
Here are seven things to think about if you’re faced with an unresponsive client who won’t sign off material or come back to you on an important piece of work.
1. Remember it’s not all about you.
Your clients are busy people. They’re running large companies. They’ve got unhappy shareholders to worry about. Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, you just aren’t their priority at the moment. Keep at them. If it’s a good idea, or important to them, they’ll come back to you.
2. Call them rather than email.
Some of the best managers are notoriously bad at email. They read messages on mobile devices and think, “I’ll deal with that later.” By the time they get back to the office they’ve had 100 other emails they need to deal with. If you’re not getting a response to your email, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.
3. Check that the client knows what to do with what you’ve sent them and why it’s important.
Some PR professionals are terrible at telling their clients what they need to do with any work that’s been sent to them. If your client doesn’t know how he’s supposed to respond to your idea, chances are they won’t respond at all. Makes sure you state clearly in the opening line of your email whether you need the client to input technical information into a document, sign off a draft letter, or agree to a budget.
4. Consider whether the quality is up to snuff.
Most people don’t like giving negative feedback. Clients might ignore your work if they think it isn’t good enough but don’t want to spend hours correcting it. If your work is being constantly ignored, ask yourself if it was really good enough to send them in the first place.
5. Think about whether the work is relevant to what the client wants to achieve.
Some agencies like to generate activity to show perceived value to the client, rather than focusing on the things needed to meet the client’s objectives. If your client’s busy and you send them stuff that isn’t important to them, not only will they ignore it, but you’ll also irritate them and cause them to wonder what they’re paying you for.
6. Have a regular time slot with your client.
Your clients’ time is important. That’s why they hire lobbyists and PR consultancies to do the work for them. Respect your clients by managing their time effectively. Schedule regular meetings or conference calls in which you can have their undivided attention and where you can go through outstanding materials with them. That’s a far more productive way of getting them to sign off your work than constantly chasing them by email.
7. Accept it isn’t happening.
Sometimes great ideas and great pieces of work don’t go anywhere. That’s the nature of our industry. Accept it and move on.