I had the “what do you want?” discussion this weekend with my fiancee about this because we’ve hit some snags in what we thought was going to be a simple process to plan a simple wedding. Turns out it’s not simple and what’s made it even more complicated is she didn’t have a clear view of what she wanted and I didn’t have a clear understanding of the ramifications of that.
I’m not faulting her for not knowing what she wanted. After all, she freely admits she’s not been that person who has been planning her wedding since she was 9 years old. But what that means is that as ideas have been given to her by family and friends, she’s taken each and said, “I think that might work” and then tried to make it work. Well, you guessed it, that doesn’t work!
It finally clicked with me this morning that the problem is not having a baseline to refer back to. If she had a list of things she’d like to see happen (or not happen) at her wedding, that would allow her to filter out the ideas that just don’t jive and she can’t politely tell folks thanks but no thanks, that’s not adding to my goal.
It’s not unlike what PR people should be telling clients. In my recent gig working at a public relations agency I’ve had a lot of success with clients. I’ve also had a couple of bad experiences from which I like to think I’ve learned a lot. The main two things I learned were “find out what they want” and “manage expectations.”
If it’s not clear what a client wants, then your project will become maddening because you think you’re doing all the right things and delivering this great product only to find out that the client had something different in mind. How you define success and how your client defines success can be very different. Make sure you’re on the same page before you start doing anything.
Once you know what your client wants, then you need to manage expectations. If they have a story to tell, that’s great — but maybe it’s only a story to the local paper and they aren’t going to wind up on the front page of USA Today or get a mention on Letterman. If you don’t manage expectations, you are in for a bad phone call or meeting at some point where you have to explain to your client that they never had a chance in hell of landing those big splashes and, gee, I guess I should have told you that from the beginning.
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered during this period of wedding planning it’s that as long as my fiancee and I can survive the wedding, our marriage should be solid.
Come to think of it, that sounds like the relationship I’ve had with a few clients and employers over the years, too.