Throughout my time in college, I have worked with over a dozen different clients through internships, in-class work, or senior capstone projects. Client relations is something many students miss out on, but I believe to be a skill every young PR professional should gain before graduating. It is something I did not quite realize the true benefit of until after the fact.
Seeing a project through from start to finish, communicating with the client throughout the process, and learning to handle challenges when they occur is an opportunity I am grateful to have had.
The variety and breadth of the client work I participated in is the bulk of my portfolio. From graphic design, website design, and social media to video production and copywriting, I’ve been able to do on a professional basis. Learning in a classroom setting has it’s benefits and works for many students, but hands-on experience is where I really applied what I learned. For those of you considering hiring interns or even reaching out to local college programs for PR assistance, please know you won’t be sorry. Not only will you get great work, but you will truly help shape the careers of those students. If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are a few things I’ve learned by working with real clients on real projects.
Get to know your client
While this seems simple, creating a strong relationship with a client can be the difference between a good project and a great project. It is not enough to know your client’s needs. You must really work to understand them. Why do they want that deliverable? What are they trying to accomplish? How do they define their brand? Who is their audience? What is their industry? How do they like to be contacted? Learning how to communicate best with clients is another part of this process. Emailing progress reports and sharing snippets of ideas–let them know you are excited to be working on this project. I’ve learned a happy client throughout the process makes all the difference.
The best projects I worked on were the ones I had the confidence to be really creative. If a client asks for a video, I’ve learned the best way to incorporate their ideas while still putting some creative twist or introducing an extension of their brand in a different way. Obviously, you are doing a job for them and their business, so I know to stick to their requirements, but I also know they chose us to do it for a reason, so making creative suggestions can help.
Communicate with clients often. Stick to deadlines dutifully. Follow-up after meetings. Thank clients for giving you the opportunity. At the end of the day, I learned to remember they could have gone somewhere else for the work, but they came to us and I don’t take that lightly.
Client work is incredibly valuable, both to the client and to the students. It is the definition of building mutually beneficial relationships. Don’t be afraid to work with students and student-run firms. Take a chance and help build the next generation of PR professionals. I am grateful for those who took a chance on me as a student. And I will return the favor when I’m in a role to do so.
Sierra Prince is a recent Public Relations and Marketing graduate from Ohio Northern University.