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Balancing the politics of relationship

April 5, 2012


One of the most challenging concepts PR Practitioners face in the workplace is balancing the politics of relationships. The ultimate goal is to retain a positive relationship between the client, the client’s representatives, i.e. managers, stylists, agents, etc all while maintaining positive relationships with media, brand reps and even promoters. A PR is measured by their weight in beneficial relationships that yield results.

After being in the field of PR for fifteen years this concept is still one I struggle with. I have great relationships on all sides, but admittedly lines often become blurry and there are few occasions where one party doesn’t walk away feeling slighted. My relationships with media are my bloodline, but many times I am unable to deliver an exclusive interview or behind the scenes information because I am operating on behalf of my client. Because I have been doing this for a decade and a half, I know that the same client that turns down a major exposé with a popular media outlet will undoubtedly need that outlet’s coverage before the season is over. Because I know this, it’s my job to nurture the relationship with that media outlet so when we need them, we have the option for coverage.  The same exact theory applies to promoters and even other publicists who request a clients’ presence at their event and may feel scorned if a PR they have a good relationship with can’t deliver their client. Getting the desired results your job depends on the ability to get a client to see the bigger picture, a skill the majority of talent does not comprehend.

Celebrities or successful people as a whole are used to being catered to in every way.  Their looks, beauty and or talent have afforded them the right to instant gratification. For this reason it can be difficult trying to explain to them why they need to do a particular interview, engage a brand representative or attend a specific party.
On the other hand, my job as an efficient publicist rests on my ability to deliver the clients on my roster to various outside sources.  Getting invited to the hottest events, being privy to opportunities with the largest brands and corporations and attending the livestock shows, is strictly contingent on the value of my clients.

There are no textbook answers, yet the concept is the very thing that makes a PR rep effective or non-effective. Because relationships are so vital to the success of business, it’s imperative to study the value of relationships.  When elaborating on this I am reminded of a conversation I had with a business colleague a few years ago. I was asking him for his opinion on charging a client and he said something that I never forgot. “It’s important to know your value and the value that others you work with being to the table. Once you know a person’s value, you can see how they can be an asset to what you do.” The concept seemed simple, but it’s actually multi-dimensional. Assigning value to a relationship allows you to prioritize which helps with balance. I know that I need to keep my clients happy, but I also need to have favor with press and corporate brand reps. It’s important for me to assess the value of each above and beyond the project that’s in front of me.

So many times people place value based on the other party’s current contribution to the project they are working on at the time. I call this being short-sighted. Many times a person’s talent and ability for outshine what they are doing at the moment. Prioritizing the value of relationship based on a current situation as opposed to potential and talent can be one of the biggest mistakes people make. The old adage, “the foot you step on today may be attached to the behind you have to kiss tomorrow” has been proven time and time again. Understanding and respecting the importance of building and maintaining relationship can keep you from being disenchanted later when a former employee or subordinate is suddenly in a position of authority.

There are countless books and papers dedicated to this topic. As a PR practitioner it is a daily struggle, however relationship building is a skill that applies to every profession on some level.  While studying a topic is a worthy task, the bottom line boils down to something we all were taught in kindergarten. If you treat others the way you would have them treat you, and practice Walt Disney’s commandment, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” you will be a lot closer to enjoying mutually beneficial relationships.



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