Copyright 2017

jumpstartJumpStart aims to positively impact young public relations (PR) professionals to assist them in gaining knowledge that they can use to develop themselves and improve their PR careers. The September session once again offered a wealth of information and insights on the topic ‘building client relationships through communication’ sponsored by Nestlé.

The guest speakers included Phindelwa Mda, Regional Business Head: Sub Saharan Africa Region of Nestlé South Africa Maternal and Infant Nutrition who spoke on ‘how to build relationships in Africa’; Connie Matau – Consumer and Issues Manager – shared how the corporation managed its consumer engagement division; and finally we had Candice Mullins, founder of Nestlé’s PR and creative agency, Bonfire Media gave us guidance on the do’s and don’ts of client relationship building.

Building relationships in Africa
The morning kicked off with the first speaker Pindelwa Mda who shared the four key factors to consider when working with customers in Africa:

  1. Building trust
    Building trust with various stakeholders creates an environment where you can easily conduct business.
  2. Authenticity
    Authenticity is key to forming long-standing relationships as it shows that you are genuine and in it for the long haul.
  3. Positive Attitude
    Africa is a diverse continent with different cultures and it is imperative to understand and respect these in order to build sustainable relationships.
  4. Empowerment
    Empowering people with the necessary information they require to make decisions creates an environment of trust which leads to building solid partnerships with stakeholders.

Building relationships with consumers
Connie Matau highlighted four points that cannot be ignored when dealing with consumers from a branding perspective, these included:

  1. Authenticity – Brand promise is a priority.
  2. Consistency in all areas including your communication.
  3. Care – giving back to the community, upskilling where possible and listening to consumer’s needs.
  4. Listening – when dealing with customers through any medium (call center, online or face-to-face, for example) it’s important to be attentive and understand the position of your customer to build mutual respect.

Client relationship building
Candice Mullins shared an interesting analogy of relating a client relationship with a personal relationship such as going through the dating process.

She listed the different stages that professionals go through when building new relationships with clients – namely, “blind date tactics”:

  • Dress to impress
  • Be the best real version of yourself
  • Show value
  • Split the bill (establish the respect between each other)

Once you have had a successful first “blind date”, you will begin your honeymoon phase. This time is available for you to figure each other out; understand the brand and do your research.

She further stated that it’s not about the work but how you do your work:

  • Learn your love language
    Each client-agency relationship is different. Learn what gives the two of you the right rhythm and chemistry to tango.
  • Strive to be the favourite date in the room
    You’ll be competing with different creative agencies (and quite often PR is the first to get the boot) – make sure your client sees you first, give them the effort, energy and creativity that they deserve.
  • Clients are from Mars and Agencies are from Venus
    Clients may not always understand the dynamics that make a PR agency exist – be open and honest with them to guide them.
  • Don’t be that girlfriend
    Sometimes you’ll receive out-of-scope requests or some months they may creep out of your retainer; allow for some lenience.  Build a relationship strong enough to allow you to feel confident enough to say ‘time-out’.
  • Stick your neck out for what you believe
  • If it’s unhealthy – break up.

Overall, JumpStart members enjoyed a fulfilling morning in which they were spoilt with invaluable input and tasty treats. We thank Phindelwa, Connie and Candice for giving their time and sharing their knowledge to help the future of the PR industry to learn and grow.

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