Interviewing Clients: A Necessary Art / by Lorraine Gimblett

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Interviewing potential clients should go beyond the obvious questions of their goals, business objectives and budget – and determine whether the work and the relationship are a good fit for the present and in years to come.

You wouldn’t go into a blind date without looking up your date on Facebook – seeing if you have any mutual contacts or interests – and the same goes for your working relationships. Check out a potential client’s website, blog and social media pages to get a feel for the company vibe to see if you think the work and personalities will be complementary. Is it a good feeling you’re getting? Is their photography hip and on point? Are their photos taken in bad lighting or with a shaky hand?

We try to get to know the people who we may take on as clients so we can build trust, bond and understand their personalities and communications styles, because harmony goes a long way in an agency-client relationship. Over the last 12 years Food Shelter has interviewed many potential clients – and while they were getting to know us just as much as we were getting to know them – there’s always the determination of whether or not we would move forward. And while we can’t give you the skills to read people, make connections, or charm someone with your wit or experience, we can give a few questions that should be asked to gauge what the scope of work, and feel, of your relationship might be.

Here are four essential questions to ask when interviewing clients.

1.     What do you want your organization to look like in one year, two year or five years?

2.     How are decisions made and who makes them?

3.     What do you like about what other firms do, and what do you wish they would do differently?

4.     What do you and don’t you need?

All of these questions help get to the core of their goals with PR and to help the agency identify and solve for their pain points. They’re necessary questions in identifying how to help grow their brand and utilize the tools needed to get results.

But often, client relationships end up spanning years and blossom into real friendships. It’s good to know who you’re working with, their expectations, and communication style before you sign the contract. We choose our clients just as much as they choose us. We’re proud be the agency of record for the P.J.W. Restaurant Group over the last 8 years. When we were first introduced by a mutual industry friend, the restaurant group had no marketing person at all. And it was the level of trust that our referral came with that helped us make recommendations about internal operations and play an exciting role in the growth of their company. Plus, we also like to text each other podcast recommendations, so we’ve got a good balance of communication between work and fun, and look forward to the growth of the P.J.W. Restaurant Group to come.

Don’t be afraid to ask more personal questions and get a feel for the individuals you’ll be working with. Experience has shown us that combining facts and fun lead to the most fruitful working relationships.

We’re happy to represent a group of clients who we’re proud to not only do good, results driven work for – but share a few laughs and drinks with from time to time, too.