By: Maria Fournier, event director of Elevate Communications
In our communication framework at Elevate Communications, stewardship and quality client relations are necessities. Stewardship and client relations are all about the management and protection of the relationship between client and company. As we continue on in our public relations campaign with the Capital Area Special Olympics of Louisiana (CASOL), we have already realized neither of these can be learned by sitting in the classroom. Our service-learning opportunity at the Manship School of Mass Communication has allowed us to experience both of these practices for ourselves.
Photo from: https://thelimngroup.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/letting-our-public-relations-expertise-shine-through-capital-area-special-olympics/
As public relations practitioners, we are running this campaign under the ROPES model. In this model, stewardship brings up the tail end of the process behind research, objectives, planning and evaluation. Stewardship can be broken down into four actions: reciprocity, responsibility, reporting, and relationship nurturing. In its entirety, stewardship means fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with stakeholders in order to promote growth for the client.
In the article “The ties that bind: Building better client relationships,” author Ken Jacobs proposes 12 tips to foster a nurturing relationship:
- Understand their world
- Understand their fears
- Use their language
- Be proactive
- Become strategic
- Change with them
- Be the call your client wants to take
- Articulate your standards
- Create win-win situations
- Go get them
As we’ve held client meetings in the past few months, we’ve realized all of these are crucial, but especially listening and trying to understand their world.
In “5 tips for enhancing client relations” by Nicole Messier, published on PR Daily, Messier highlights the fact that excelling in client relations is not just for the public relations field, but for all careers. As we provide a new campaign for CASOL and they provide us with hands-on experience, I believe all team members at Elevate will grow as public relations practitioners. We’ve seen growth in our acceleration of the campaign, as well as meetings with the client.
During our last client meeting, we had to re-pitch our event idea, which is a major component of this campaign. As a class, we came up with the new concept of “Raise the Roof,” a food truck rally and fundraiser at Tin Roof Brewery in downtown Baton Rouge. Although we were all sold on our own idea, we needed to re-pitch it to our clients at CASOL.
As I began to explain the new event plans to our client and other CASOL team members, I could see slightly concerned, questioning looks on their faces. I immediately became concerned, and through each aspect of the event plans, I tried to explain the win-win situation in each, proving that this can be a profitable fundraising event.
Completely justified, they expressed their concern of deviating from the original plan. As they discussed these new possibilities, our team had to do something that is normally easy, but in the moment was exceedingly difficult: listen. We had to step back as a team and realize that we do not live in the nonprofit world on a daily basis, but our client does.
After working out plans and details of the event, we all were on the same page and left the meeting feeling at ease. But, as the event director, I do feel a pressure to steward resources and assets well for CASOL. I have a specific budget to work with, and I want to ensure through the rest of the campaign that setting up this fundraiser reflects our care for CASOL as a client. What stewardship and client relations really boil down to is management. Managing assets, resources and relationships is a balancing act, but we are learning that at a quick pace here at Elevate Communications.