Reading the client

Gunks Time was rapidly running out on the second day of an amazing weekend's worth of rock climbing in The Gunks, which features perhaps the best routes east of the Mississippi River. (That'e me in the middle of our intrepid group, pictured left.)

I was struggling mightily up a steep crack in a near vertical wall when I heard my guide, Art Mooney, yell from below, "Steve, let's lower you off this one and have you try the other route." We did just that and, much to my delight, I successfully topped out on the slightly easier climb. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Art had read his client (me) like a book. He knew I was gassed as he likes to say. But, Art also knew his client wanted to cap off his weekend with a successful summit. So, he made it happen.

The best PR strategists do the same thing with their clients. They know how to anticipate a client's needs, suggest winning strategies and ensure a long-term relationship. But, as we all know, that's much easier said than done.

Some clients say one thing, but mean another.

One long-gone client of ours told us he wanted a strategic partner when he hired us. Then, after we'd made three or four suggestions that he ignored, the client fired back a terse note to our account lead saying, "I don't want to rock the boat with anything out-the-box. Keep getting basic results in the trade pubs and stop bothering me with ideas I'm not going to implement."

So, we did what we were told.

Eventually, the client was fired. And, naturally, as soon as his replacement was hired, she called our account lead and asked why we hadn't been doing more strategic work. Ugh.
We'd read the client correctly, but later paid a price for his reluctance to do anything strategic.

Happily, most clients are looking for someone who, like Art Mooney, can anticipate their macro wants and needs and, most importantly, make them look good to their senior management. 

Aside from the occasional don't rock the boat guy, most clients love it when you ask, "Have you thought of this?' or 'Why don't we try that?"

That's what Art Mooney does with me, and that's what we try to do with our clients. It may seem obvious, but it's what separates the good from the great in climbing, PR and life.

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