There are a few words we can’t use in our office any more. “Bespoke” makes my account directors break out in hives. “Elite” has my juniors rolling their eyes, and “lux” is the the mother of all deterrents, but the one that none of us can get away from.
When you tell people you work in luxury public relations, the responses are always the same. Awed comments on the glamour, questions about industry contacts, sly observations on how much you must make. But few people consider that with great retainers comes great responsibility – and even greater pressure.
Clients can be tricky at the best of times, but ultra-high net worth clients are a different breed. These rich individuals are often unaware of the limitations of cash. No matter how damaging a key message can be, or dry the campaign they want to go with, luxury clients are of the impression that more money equals more glitter.
So, how do you manage the expectations of the world’s most demanding clients? I’d love to tell you it’s all about balance and a positive attitude, but I’m afraid that would be a very rich lie.
No means … what does no mean again?
No is not a term within the vocabulary of a luxury PR worker. N-O spells bemused client, and, if it happens more than once, a revoked contract. These clients are not used to having requests turned down, so instead of saying the forbidden word, I find the following phrases help: “I’ll get our research team on that!” “Absolutely, let’s revisit that closer to the time.” “Interesting! That’s so interesting. What an interesting idea!”
Other terms to avoid include: “That may need a longer timeline” or “Could you clarify that, please?”
Invest in interns that are bubbly and switched on
Every agency says they’ll go above and beyond, but you don’t know the meaning of that until you send a junior team member out with a client’s toddler, company card in hand, with strict instructions about their intricate dietary requirements and penchant for independent exploration.
Often clients can confuse PR for PA and will scope-creep from media relations and event management to requesting babysitters, dog walkers, taxi bookers, make-up artists, estate agents … the list goes on. It’s not always what our interns had in mind when they said they wanted a challenge, but if you put together the right team, relationships with clients can flourish.
Develop a very thick skin
Luxury clients are often harsh and will consider their business a treat or privilege for your agency. Understand that mood swings happen often and reciprocity is rare. You need to find your boundaries and accept that high-net worth clients are not always the most concerned with compassion.
Soak it up
Seriously. Despite everything, relish it. Demands may be crazy and clients intense, but that’s where the best insight comes from. Luxury brands have managed to obtain their prestige by being market leaders in their industry through grit and hard graft, often over many years. They’ve seen trends come and go, and recently steered their brands through a tricky recession. The insight they can provide into highly successful international practices is invaluable and the opportunities that working with luxury brands affords will melt away any menial task.
Plus, when you think of the events and opportunity for travel, the dog walking actually becomes quite appealing.
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