People of various professions can often be faced with a question of whether or not each customer is a good customer. The answer to this question greatly differs depending on the area of operations. After all, let’s say doctors take care of each person following the Hippocratic oath, thus in such a case, the relevance of this question is highly doubtful. But what is it like working in the PR realm? It seems that a majority of the same tools can be adapted here as well.
This aspect is particularly interesting in PR activities, as here one often gets to think if what behaviour would be right in one or another situation. Let’s say, how should I react when a party declaring social-democratic values addresses the agency, even though personally I – a potential representative of this party – follow liberal views – would it be better to work with such a customer or to refuse to work with him? After all, we often find ourselves in much more challenging situations. As an example, we can look to the well-known 1 Baltijskij kanal case, when even the Lithuanian media openly stated that there would probably be not a single PR agency willing to work with this customer. What would the best behaviour be in this situation? View it simply as a potential customer, who needs help, or to stop here? There are a number of such examples, thus personally I have always been interested in determining where that limit actually is – how to combine customer interests and personal beliefs, and should this be done altogether?
First of all I should say that, in my opinion, any customer is not necessarily a good customer. PR activities are strongly influenced by certain values, thus it is essentially different from other professions, for example, from the previously mentioned work of doctors. Public relations is communication when it is not possible to simply distance oneself from a thing being publicized. Thus, you have to be sure about the things you communicate or at least to not oppose them. I think that each time there is a customer whose area of interests is in conflict with personal values of a project manager, one has to carefully consider that. Let’s say if I personally do not agree with the introduction of the Euro. It would be honest and fair to refuse to participate in such a project and not to contribute to the publication of such information. The PR profession must maintain a balance between what you actually support and what you communicate. Also, work principles of a customer himself are very important here. If he asks to work using shady methods, for example to bribe the media and behave in a way essentially in conflict with PR activity principles, it would be wise to refuse such a job.
Thus each public relations agency should talk a lot about what is right and wrong. After all, it could happen that once an agency wins a tender, a certain project will be delegated to a person who is in principle against that project, for example, smoking. And in such a case it would be best and most professional for a project manager of such a project to refuse to work with it. An ideal case scenario is that before taking part in a certain tender, each agency would clear up an overall approach of its employees towards that particular project. After all, should it turn out that they view it as a negative thing, participation in such a tender would be awkward in principle.
Therefore, I have to say that each customer is not necessarily is a good customer. Thus before starting to cooperate on a job, one has to ask him or herself whether an attitude expressed by a customer is in line with his own beliefs, and to consider whether one would like to be identified with that attitude. The truth is that in communication, when creating a customer’s reputation, you are creating one for yourself, thus it is important to choose with whom to work and whom to refuse.