What to do When Your Client Goes Radio Silent
Imagine this: It’s the week before your client’s biggest announcement of the year. They’re launching a brand-new product that they’re sure will take the market by storm, and they’re dreaming of having it covered in all the places that matter: Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider. Your team has been on guard to pitch the news for weeks, and you’ve had great success with announcements like this in the past.
There’s only one problem — you still don’t know anything about the product. You have no visual assets, no product details, no pricing and, therefore, no results. You’ve followed up with the client several times requesting product photos, details and value propositions, to no avail. Now, it’s the week before the launch and you have nothing legitimate to pitch and no press interest.
Unfortunately, this scenario happens far too often in PR. Many clients don’t have a thorough understanding of what it takes to land those major press placements, and it can be frustrating as a PR practitioner when your client contact rebuffs your requests for more information — and seems frustrated with you for even asking them again.
Over the course of my career, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks to get the information I need in order to do my job, showcase the client’s value to the media, and ultimately land those placements that matter most to their bottom line. Below are my top tips for getting the assets you need when a client goes radio silent.
Show, Don’t Tell
I’ve found that it can be beneficial to show the client exactly what it is that you need in order to produce good work. For any news announcement or product launch, the devil is in the details. Journalists want to know specifics before they’ll commit to writing about a company or product. What makes this announcement relevant now? What’s so different about this software update or product launch? What are the benefits for consumers? How does it work?
If you’re tasked with writing a press release, for example, but you don’t have the facts you need, consider this: write it without them.
Be proactive and draft an outline or skeleton version of the release that calls out the specific details you need. Here’s an example:
COMPANY, INC. LAUNCHES [insert product name here] DESIGNED TO [insert 3 product benefits here]
[insert product images here]
NEW YORK, NY — Company, Inc. today announced the launch of it’s new product [insert product name here] which will offer [insert 3 product benefits here].
[Product name] will improve [insert impacted industries here] by [insert product capabilities here].
…and so on. By demonstrating to the client that you’re ready and willing to help, and clearly outlining the tools you need in order to do so (and showing them how hollow the release is without those relevant details), you can help them see how critical those details are to the success of the campaign. You also make it easier for the client to fill in the blanks. Finally, by doing this, you also demonstrate to the client that you’re doing all you can to prepare for the announcement, and kicking the ball over to their court to get the project across the finish line.
Meet Them Where They Are
If your email follow-ups aren’t landing or the client is cancelling calls, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re communicating with them. How do they prefer to be reached? Determine where your client contact spends the most time communicating, and adapt to connect with them there.
I’ve contacted clients in every way imaginable — from Twitter DMs, to text messages, calls and even Marco Polo. I’ve also just sent them unsolicited meeting invites to catch up, in the hopes I can hijack their calendar and convince them to meet with me. In dealing with some busy executives, relying on their office inbox is an easy way to get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day work demands.
As a PR practitioner, you’re an expert communicator. So be flexible! Find new ways of communicating with clients when they vanish via email. Get creative and try every avenue available (short of hunting them down in person like a stalker). They’ll thank you in the long run, when you finally crack through, get the information you need, and yield results in the press.
Stage a Covert Interview
This trick works most effectively for more seasoned PR pros, who may have a few longstanding and friendly relationships with journalists. Reach out to a trusted media friendly, and set up an interview with the client to discuss the announcement. You can prepare your reporter friend ahead of time with a list of questions about the announcement, and let them know that you’re in the early stages of information sourcing.
Sometimes, when the questions come directly from a reporter, it serves as a powerful demonstration to the client that the press will expect details in order to cover any news or announcement about the company. How many times have you learned more from your client during a media interview than you have during your multiple biweekly meetings? The same applies here — especially if you’re colluding with the journalist friend to get more answers.
Whether your journalist friend decides to cover the news or not, you’ll have sourced the information you need in order to pitch the story to the rest of your media list.
Put Your Work in Writing
When all else fails, make a paper trail. Create a list of action items around the announcement, and present the client with the materials you need to achieve success. Rather than promising a press release draft you’re not prepared to write, phrase it this way: The agency will deliver a draft press release by this date, if the client provides product details by that date. By embedding those assets into the launch timeline from the start, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success early on. If the client still fails to share the required assets, you’ll have those requests in writing to refer back to.
Similarly, remember to follow up regularly via email. If you’re not getting the information you need, it’s in your best interest to protect yourself from potential legal fallout. By requesting materials and agreeing to timelines in writing, you can protect your team from accusations of missing work or failure to execute on the plan.
Interested in learning more about what to do when a client stops returning your emails? Hear more advice on the PR Wine Down Podcast, where my co-dost Laura Schooler and I take a deeper dive into this topic.