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4 ways clients can be better clients

A few weeks ago, Hubspot made a post about why clients fire PR agencies. Lots of the reasons you thought would be on a list like that showed up:

* Lack of communication

* Lack of results

* Lack of initiative

I get it. Agencies suck sometimes. But you know what, sometimes clients suck, too.


Yeah, I said it. Hey, I didn’t say MY clients suck. Quite the contrary. I couldn’t be luckier to work with the clients I work with right now. It’s a solid bunch (including my Sleep Number clients who have been working with me for almost six years now!). I’m very fortunate.

But the slamming of PR agencies and consultants has got a little tiresome. Not so much because it’s not true (a lot of it is true, to be honest). More so because there hasn’t been a fair-and-balanced discussion. What about clients? Aren’t they equally as difficult to work with in spots?

Look, I’m not hear to slam clients. Again, quite the contrary. I’m here to provide ideas and open up a discussion about how we can work better together. So, here are a few ideas for clients around how they can make a client/consultant partnership work just a bit better:

Put yourself in our shoes

One of the advantages I “sell” clients in working with me is this: I’ve been in your shoes. I worked on the corporate side for years, so I know the pressures clients face. Political pressures. Heat from their boss. Heat from the CEO. Legal breathing down their throat. I understand. I would ask clients to take a moment and put themselves in our shoes for a bit. Stop and think about what our day is like. Juggling competing client deadlines. Managing client (and agency) expectations. Working with internal teams to meet those deadlines. I know, we all have pressures and stress. But, I think putting yourself in the other person’s shoes can be quite healthy once in a while.

Treat us like an employee

Stop laughing–just for a moment. I’m serious here. What’s the one thing all clients/agencies say at the outset of a relationship? We want a true partnership. If that’s true, and you really believe that, why not think of your consultants as employees? As an extension of your team. Obviously, you can’t REALLY treat them like employees, but you can THINK of them the same way. Why does that matter? Because you motivate employees differently. You treat them differently. You give them a different level of respect.

Recognize when we go the extra mile (or 10)

Agency folks are well-known for recognizing clients when they earn and see success. They’ll send flowers, chocolates, lunches. You name it. But, they do it. Every time (OK, not EVERY time, but I’m making a point here!). Sure, it’s usually an attempt to kiss up a bit and make the client feel good about the work together. But, it’s also just recognizing good work from a partner (the client). Why doesn’t the same principal apply the other way around? Why can’t clients recognize when agencies/consultants go the extra mile? Why don’t they extend the same gratitude? In fact, sometimes they do. And you often hear about it (often via social media–I think back to instances where I’ve heard about Todd Defren and SHIFT being rewarded by their clients). Why can’t that happen more often?

Resist the urge to “feel the power”

One thing I’ve noticed about certain clients over the years: They like the power play of being the client. Certain people just like having that “power.” They like being able to hold an agency’s/client’s life in their hands. They like being in control. They like being the boss. That’s all fine. Except for this small fact: Every city is really just a small town (yes, even New York City). Translation: You may end up working for that agency account supervisor you’re berating on the phone each week . Be careful how you wield that power now–it may come back to bite you in the you-know-where some day in the not-so-distant future. Besides, that kind of approach isn’t healthy for a true partnership anyway.

photo credit: having an argument with myself via photopin (license)

That’s my two cents. Got anything to add agency/consultant friends?

Twin Cities PR This Week – May 29

Every two weeks, this is where you’ll find who’s been promoted, who’s changing jobs, who’s looking for talent and who’s hosting events here in the Twin Cities. It’s your one-stop shop for all things PR and digital marketing here in town!

Want to make it even easier? Sign up for my weekly e-newsletter and you can get all this stuff right in your inbox.

Fenced In, Part 3


Congrats to Maggie Lamaack (Bellmont PR), Sara Thatcher (Goff Public), Erin Vande Steeg (Mall of America) on their #32under32 wins last night!


The Minneapolis PR and interactive community is losing a star next week when Lisa Grimm moves to Austin to start a new adventure with Whole Foods. Good luck, Lisa! Minneapolis will always be here for you!

General Mills recently hired Ashley Halladay as a social media specialist (working with friend, Kevin Hunt). Congrats, Ashley!


Nicki Gibbs was promoted to senior vice president, strategy at Beehive PR. Nicki was my former manager at Beehive PR–and someone I have a ton of respect and admiration for. Congrats, Nicki!


Target is seeking a manager of PR (focusing on crisis) to join its communications team (you’d be working with friend and colleague, Molly Snyder!): http://m.jobs.target.com/minneapolis/marketing-communications-and-public-relations/jobid7666097-manager-public-relations-crisis-jobs/description/true

Cool gig here – Dunn Bros. is seeking a director of marketing. Free coffee, anyone? https://www.mima.org/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=303890

HealthPartners is looking for a supervisor of digital analytics: https://www.mima.org/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=303513



Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association is hosting one of its two annual social events on June 17 at the (new) Surly beer hall. Free beer for members! http://www.mima.org/events/event_details.asp?id=533108

Might just go see friend and former client, Bridget Jewell at MN PRSA’s event, Deepening Social Engagement through Award-Winning Work (kudos on the self-depricating title!) on June 4: http://www.mnprsa.com/events/upcoming-events/


Are social media certification programs a worthwhile investment?

Last week, a colleague asked a simple question.

“Are social media certification programs worth it?

Simple question, right?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as black and white.

Because the answer requires context. It’s also situational–since not everyone is looking for the same “off-the-shelf” product as the next person.

So, instead of a black-or-white “yes” or “no” answer, what you get is a “it depends.”

“It depends” because a number of factor come into play:

Depends on who’s doing the certifying

SM cert 3

Like David Erickson said above (when I posed this question to my Facebook friends a couple weeks ago): it kinda depends on who’s doing the certifying. If a reputable, well-known organization like Hubspot is certifying: Yes, good to go. If Joe’s Social Media Gurus is doing the certifying: Not so much. Or, look at it a different way. Let’s say you have two options: Hootsuite University or the Rutgers Mini-MBA in Social Media Marketing. One is run by a for-profit company that wants you to use its product above-and-beyond all else. The other is run by a widely respected Big Ten university. So, right off the bat, that’s an interesting point of distinction. Now, that doesn’t mean the Hootsuite certification is not useful–certainly for those using Hootsuite as a platform, it would be. But, what if you’re not using Hootsuite? Wouldn’t you rather learn from and participate in a program that’s designed to give you a more well-rounded experience? Plus, the more academic route is bound to have more rigor. There will be rigor around the program itself–what classes are offered, in what order, etc. There will be rigor around how they find and hire professors or adjunct faculty to teach these classes. It’s academia–there will be lots of process and rigor that goes into it. Translation: More vetting usually means higher quality (usually, but not always). In this case, the WHO is a big deal. Make sure you take that into consideration.

Depends on who you’re certifiying

Is it a junior-level employee, or a more senior-level professional? I think that matters. Why? Because if we’re talking about a junior-level person, my inclination is always to try to coach these employees up before outsourcing training. Is there someone on your team who could mentor or teach these employees? Wouldn’t that be a more pragmatic way to go? After all, you want to train your employees around disciplines like social media. But, you also want to train them around what social media means in the larger context of working for your organization. You most likely won’t get that with a certification program. Now, if it’s a senior-level staffer, I actually like the certification process a bit more because the older generations learn differently. They tend to have more formal learning styles. And, they might appreciate the opportunity to learn at their own pace, and privately, so they’re not embarrassed in a classroom setting where they might look foolish. So yeah, who’s receiving the certification or training matters.

Depends on your perspective training vs. hiring

What Rohn is really getting at below is this: Do you train up your existing employees through certification, or do you just go out and hire someone who already has the skill set you’re seeking? That’s a philosophical question. And, it’s a fairly situational one, too. So, I’m not sure there’s an easy answer here. But, I will say this. If we’re talking about social media marketing, there seems to be two camps of people: Those who get it, and those who simply don’t. Now, some of those “don’ts” can be converted. No question. But, it’s a hard road. Sometimes, it’s more about convincing them social is the right path, than it is about training them on how to best use social. So, I’d probably lean more toward finding people that already have the skills you’re looking for than training up folks that may also need convincing that social is the right way to go.

SM cert 1


Depends on how you feel about “certifications”

As Carri notes below, not everyone obtaining these certifications is the kind of employee you’d really want to hire. Note her third comment below–that’s what I feel a lot of people who seek our certification are looking for. They want to “check the box.” And that’s fine, but I tend to agree with Carri–that’s not the way digital and social marketing works. There is no “OK, I’m all smarted up now!” There’s no “I’m all done with my social media education.” It’s a process. And, if you have someone who doesn’t understand that, you’re in trouble.

SM cert 4

Depends on the how you feel about the fluidity of social media

The only thing we can be sure of in social media circles: There will always be constant change. As Chris notes below, that makes it difficult to certify because the platforms, guidelines and trends are constantly shifting. Certainly social media isn’t the only discipline to face this challenge, but I would argue the winds of change blow more fiercely when it comes to social than it does for say, the accounting profession. For example, let’s say you got social media “certified” in 2010. Are the concepts and best practices you learned back then still worth anything? Yes. But, a whole heckuvalot has changed since they. Do you need to get “re-certified”? This kinda plays to Carri’s point above–in a constantly changing field like social media marketing, you HAVE to have a life-long learning mindset. And, if you have an employee that has that mindset, I’m not sure you even need certification in the first place.

SM cert 2


photo credit: Valencia Orange Award, 1930 via photopin (license)

Talking Points Podcast: Special guest Allianz Life’s Jamie Plesser

This week, we had a special co-host on the show: Allianz Life’s Jamie Plesser! Jamie shared a bit about his current role and background and then joined us as a guest commentator for the rest of the show. Enjoy!

Talking Pts Podcast

SHOW NOTES – May 21, 2015

“Facebook’s new ‘Instant Articles’ program poses dilemma for publishers”


“Facebook Instant Articles: Bad for Marketers, OK for Publishers, but Great for Facebook”


“Facebook is building its own Hotel California”


“Adobe goes high end in podcast push”


“Danny Sullivan on the State of Search Marketing in 2015”


“How to manage your social media manager”


PR Rock Stars: space150’s Morgan Hay-Chapman

When I first met Morgan Hay-Chapman (in I believe 2011) she was the president of the U of M MN PRSSA chapter (a big deal), president of the MN Daily (an even BIGGER deal), a full-time student (ho-hum), and I believe she had an internship, too (at space150, where she is currently employed–go figure).

As I got to know Morgan just a bit better, it seems this is par for the course for her. She’s not satisfied unless she is literally dominating the local PR and digital marketing arena! In my work with MIMA, I routinely hear from colleagues about how great Morgan is–that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

So, it’s my honor to share with you just how awesome this young woman is…

Morgan 2

You’re a “planner” at one of the biggest interactive shops in Minneapolis (space150). What does that mean–“planner”? What does your job consist of?

I spend most of my time working on social strategies, content planning and analytics/reporting. Any given day could consist of a client meeting to collaborate on an upcoming social strategy presentation, brainstorms with our creative team to plan social content for one of our brands and digging into excel to prepare a quarterly social report. Mainly it means that I get to plan ways to connect our brands to people on the internet.

You’re a PR grad from the U of M (Go Gophers!), but you took a job at an interactive firm. Why did you decide to go that direction vs. a more traditional PR firm?

Digital has changed our industry and totally blurred the lines between PR and advertising. I knew I wanted to be a part of a place where creating digital experiences was the priority. Everyone at space150 is an expert in their own area of digital whether it’s UX, front end development or social. With how quickly the digital landscape changes it’s invaluable to be surrounded by a group of people who are on the forefront of industry changes in their respective disciplines. I learn something new every day.

You do a lot of work in social media at space150–what are the biggest concerns you hear from clients re: social right now? Biggest opportunities?

The top two concerns we hear are probably how to show the impact of social on a business and what platforms to prioritize. It’s been really fun to test new ways of proving that social is having a direct impact on a business beyond just impressions and engagements.

You were the president (and worked for) the MN Daily for almost three years in college. How did that experience prepare you for the workforce?

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The Minnesota Daily is IMHO one of the best training environments for our industry. It’s entirely student run, and anything that can happen, will happen. Working at the Daily I got the opportunity to lead projects and influence actual business strategy fairly early on in my career. I also am fascinated by the evolving world of journalism and I got a front row seat to the changes and struggles facing that industry. I can definitely see myself working for a media company in the future.

When I first met you in college, you were taking a full class load, had an internship, was involved with the U of M PRSA chapter as a leader, AND you were about to become the president of the MN Daily. How the hell did you pull that off? Do you think today’s PR grad needs to maintain that level of activity to get a job in today’s market?

You know I’m not sure I would recommend that many commitments but that type of busy is definitely a good bootcamp for agency life. However, I do think it’s more important than ever for PR grads to get real world experience outside of the classroom. Digital is the “future” (present) of our industry and it changes at such at fast pace that you need to be in the weeds on real projects to really understand how things work. I still think about your post from 2012 “10 skills the PR pro of 2022 MUST have” and how many applicants have only one or two of these skills. Those ten skills are still critically important for PR grads and if they aren’t being taught in the classroom then hopefully other activities will provide the opportunity to learn them.

You’ve been involved with MIMA now for over a year–what do you get from your MIMA volunteerism that you don’t get anywhere else?

First and foremost the community of people involved in MIMA is fantastic. But the thing I get from my MIMA volunteerism that I don’t get from anywhere else is access to professionals who inspire me that aren’t in our local market. This past year I worked on coordinating speakers for the annual MIMA Summit and was able to meet Oliver Luckett from theAudience and Chad Mumm from Vox, two people whose work I admire greatly. I highly recommend getting involved with MIMA through volunteering or at least attending the MIMA Summit this Fall.

One thing I liked about you the first time I met you is that you seemed to get the networking piece of the workforce life (even though you weren’t IN the workforce at the time). How important do you believe networking is for students trying to find that first job? What are the keys to success?

So important! Networking is invaluable. Most of my mentors are people who I first met for networking coffees or lunches. In fact, I have my job because I handed my “business card” to the former director of media at space150 during a student tour and she passed it along to Craig Key. From my experience two things are critical to networking success as a student: not being afraid to reach out and asking for recommendations. People are so willing to share their knowledge with students and rarely say no to a request to meet for coffee. Sending that first email might feel awkward but it gets easier each time. Guest speakers or agency tours are a great opportunity to meet people and then later follow-up with a request for coffee if you find them interesting. Second, is asking for recommendations on who to meet next. Everyone you meet with has their own connections and more often than not people are happy to connect you to other relevant professionals in their own circle.