Our society is obsessed with celebrities and their many faults, but to what extent. Publicists are faced with the hard decisions of saying enough is enough to clients who continually disrespect the trust of their fan bases.
Everywhere you turn; every magazine, blog, morning show, celebrities seem to be forgetting the impact they have on so many aspects of our society. From wardrobe “malfunctions” to personal quarrels on Twitter®, the people that are being looked up to by our children and us alike, are ignoring the effects of their actions. But who are the first to be called once this trust has been broken with the public, the superhero publicists, of course.
In this pop culture based world, how can public relations professionals begin to stand up to clients who tempt the trust of their fan base? As communications experts, there is an importance to understanding just how much the public can handle. How many trips to rehab does it take for that advertiser to drop out of a television performance time slot? Did that leaked nude photo result in a cancelled Grammy® performance? Unfortunately, these are questions that we have to ask ourselves and our clients. Many times we consider the cost of dropping a client from our label in a purely financial form, however, there are other factors. An out of control client is not only hurting themselves, but your image as well. Potential clients will consider your brand too “tied up” to handle them, specially knowing you have another client who is in the media for all the wrong reasons. Other signed clients will reassess if they want to be associated with the media mess your out of control client is creating. The end result is a public relations management company completely held together by one indefinite client.
So what do you do once you’ve come to the realization that you have a client who just won’t calm down? My public relations firm, The Lawrence Blake Group®, holds a policy called “The Basic Principles of Respect”. All clients, new to the industry and seasoned professionals, must adhere to these rules which are designed to relate to the industry in which they are in. Some example principles you may create for your clients could be a limit on drinks while at public events if you know your client is a heavy drinker, or a set of rules when using social networking websites for those clients who tweet about everything from rude waiters to relationship drama. The main idea is to use the personal relationship you have with your clients to help them make intelligent decisions on their communications.
Running a public relations management firm as professionally as a financial management firm gets difficult for the simple fact that we are forced to develop very personal relationships with our clients. We need to fully understand how our clients speak, respond to different situations, what upsets them, people who they may not work well with, who they want to work with and so on. Although it may seem like you are working side by side with your best friend, remember to develop boundaries early to keep your organization as professional as possible. In addition to using a “basic principles of respect” system, set a clear penalty system that works for you. The most commonly used is a 3 strike system. If you are in constant crisis management with a client, there is no way to adequately manage your other clients and it will become terribly expensive to have your PR assistants doing double work to make up for your loss. After so many bouts of disrespect, you have to sit down and evaluate the true reasons you are working with a client. A publicist dropping a client may be the wakeup call they need to get back on track!
It is important to remember that we are hired public relations managers, and just the same as if we decided to drive a car into a storefront we would be fired, clients need to understand it works the same for them. Your brand should continue to grow as long as you’re working, and regardless of client base, should continue to grow after you have stepped down. Help keep a prestige to the communications and public relations fields by forcing your clients to show their customers and fan base, as well as their hired professionals, respect.