Halloween: When Clients Turn Into Monsters

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Len Stein
Len Stein



scary-clientsTrick-or-treat! It’s Halloween, a time when scary clients rise from their resting places to drive fear into the hearts of earnest PR practitioners. I don’t mean the walking dead or the vein-draining undead — I’m referring to those clients who sometimes resemble our worst nightmares.

Beware of these creatures as you begin to budget for the coming PR season.

The Invisible Man/Woman

What an exciting new client! What a great product/service! How timely, how promising, you think as you enthusiastically prepare the PR content kit and tender it for client approval. And then…radio silence. Where’s the client who once answered emails in seconds and always took your calls? No one seems to know, but you can’t reach him, and your liaison seems out of the loop as well.

Tip: Copy everyone in the client group email. Reconfirm deadlines, call and meeting dates days ahead of time. Try color-coding messages from green to the red zone — leave no room for their excuses.

The Vampire

Garlic and crosses won’t slow down the vampire client who will suck your creative lifeblood and your budget dry with constant demands for more and faster service, unexpected requests and surprise dictates. If you think sundown brings an end to the workday, the vampire client proves that’s when the action begins.

Tip: Besides buying a sharp stake, try to keep your distance. Be sure that all approved activities are confirmed/approved in writing, along with budget and billable hours. Turn your cell phone to stun by 9 p.m. unless you are involved in time-sensitive activities.

The Zombie

Sitting at the conference table staring off into space, you wonder if he/she is alive or dead. Don’t expect the zombie client to partner up and contribute much beyond a groan or two. They can’t keep up with your pace, but look around and the zombie is shambling along, teeth snapping, ready to bite you in the neck if there’s nothing else to eat.

Tip: Keep feeding them scraps (of information) since they are unable to process complete reports. Use lots of short, to-the-point emails, and reinforce every success before their appetite becomes intolerable.

The Werewolf

He’s the perfect gentleman 28 days of the month, but as the moon glides into full phase, something horrific occurs as the werewolf client transforms. Keep those silver bullets at hand, as this client will jump you without the slightest provocation or warning. The werewolf client is completely insatiable and, moreover, doesn’t remember his monstrous ways the next day.

Tip: Keep smiling, but carry a big stick in the form of reports. Don’t let the werewolf forget you are busting your butt on his behalf, and don’t wait for the full moon to tell him so. Stay buttoned up as you memo/report/analyze his account to death.

The Witch

She’s cute, sexy and so unpredictably dangerous. The season of the witch typically arrives just as you are about to deliver that status report you are so proud of. She’s still smiling, but watch out for that spell from nowhere when she realizes she didn’t get the cover of that magazine or learns that her story was only published online.

Tip: Cast a spell on her. One must appease the witch, but explain how your every action is bringing her closer to her goal. Mix your spell well with a variety of ingredients from releases, newsletters, podcasts, interviews, etc. that demonstrate she is the apple — rather than the crabapple — of the media’s eye.

The Frankenclient

He’s the strong, silent, nearly incoherent type who you don’t want anywhere near a TV camera. This high-energy bull in a china shop can’t get out of his own way as he stumbles through interviews, forgetting copy points and lapsing off message, then threatens to tear the journalist limb-from-limb for trying to steer the conversation back on track.

Tip: Keep out of reach for fear of professional dismemberment. The Frankenclient is too strong to deal with, too locked into his ways to educate and too unpredictable to manage. A high-voltage approach will only charge him up, so you better flee.

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