How To Improve Client Relationships with Phenomenal Onboarding

The term “onboarding” feels like it’s become a buzzword, with different meanings for different people in different industries. But whether you work at a service provider, a public relations agency, or integrated marketing firm, there really isn’t much difference when it comes to client onboarding. Heck, even accounting consultancies, financial advisors, and law firms do new client onboarding!

Sure, the actual steps will vary, but the overarching idea is the same. You may not even call it onboarding–it may be your ‘welcome process’ or something else. Whatever you call it, it is absolutely essential to set your client relationship on the right track.

Develop an Onboarding Process

Think about it.  Your business development or salesperson has worked their tail off to land this new account, but if the client onboarding isn’t handled properly, that business may be fleeting—and, that costs money. (Keeping existing customers is much less expensive than acquiring new ones.)

It’s called customer turnover or churn.

Hubspot defines customer churn as “…the percentage of customers that stopped using your company’s product or service during a certain time frame.”

In its simplest form, to create growth in any business, there must be more business coming in than going out.

Successful client onboarding increases customer retention and reduces “voluntary churn”, when clients up and leave you for someone else. And let’s face it, no one wants that (not in our professional nor personal life)!

People genuinely want to feel good about their decision to work with you and your firm.

The onboarding process offers an opportunity for you to demonstrate you understand (empathy goes a long way here!), and most importantly, prove your value from the get-go.

Where to Start

New client onboarding typically begins with a welcome and thank-you to the client for trusting you with their business.

Proactively reaching out to the new client and scheduling a time to have a thorough and open discussion is next.

You ask questions, and you LISTEN. Your questions may vary depending on your situation and the nature of the work, but one of the things I find beneficial is to ask why they chose you or how they see you helping them. This helps you quickly grasp what problem they needed to solve.

I’ll repeat it—listen and listen very carefully to the responses.

Often a client will tell you the steps they want to take, or what they do not want. It’s up to you to peel back the layers and understand their end goal.

Only then, are you able to demonstrate the path—or “means goal”— to get them there.

Marching to the Beat of the Same Drum

If you’re a small firm or solo consultant, you may already be privy to your client’s end goal. After all, you were probably involved in pitching and/or winning the business.

However, in a larger agency or service provider, that’s often not the case.

Regardless of whether you think you know or not, you should ask, verify, then reiterate it back to them. Be absolutely certain everyone is marching to the same drum.

Don’t Let Issues Linger

Should anything come up that’s unexpected, or requires corrective action, you should handle this immediately, and communicate back to the client when it’s completed.

Essentially, this first new client-partner or agency-client exchange ought to be a positive one.

This is what many call making the client relationship “sticky”.

To some companies, onboarding a new client is a continuation of the sales process—finding your client’s pain points, and demonstrating how you will relieve that pain, and make their lives easier. In other organizations, it’s the beginning of the client success journey.

In my case working for BurrellesLuce, a media monitoring service provider, onboarding is a bridge from sales to client services.

After all the sale details have been re-confirmed, I ensure they received their login credentials, and schedule a training/education session with them, so they’re confident in using the web portal and tools available to pull the data and analytics they need.

Also, I make sure they know who and how to get additional help or extra training, if needed. Sometimes that even means counseling clients on best practices in media relations—they aren’t all PR pros.

Once I’m confident they have no other initial issues or concerns, then I do the hand-off to their dedicated client services manager.

The Bottom Line

Client onboarding is about setting a standard level of expectations and understanding.

Your client should feel confident they’ve made the best choice for them, and that you’re in their corner. I believe this is the most critical aspect of onboarding a new client. No “buyer’s remorse” here!

From a personal standpoint, you should know that I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). Yes, that’s a real thing. In short, it means not only do I physically feel empathy but also process things deeply and am able to pick up on subtleties that others often miss.

Trust me. This can be both a blessing and a curse in a client-facing role.

It’s a curse, in that I can truly feel their pain and frustration, especially when they’re talking about past experiences (with other services, of course). 😉

I have to be very careful that I don’t absorb that as baggage and carry it with me—which is easier said than done. Sometimes I’m unsuccessful, I’ll admit.

It’s a blessing because I can rapidly pick up on their voice inflection, temperament, and communication style–even over the phone and often even in email.

This trait helps me hone in on what others are really saying and what they need to hear. Plus, it allows me to reassure them that I understand. It makes it second-nature for me to mirror behaviors and adjust my responses in real time.

And, this is exactly what makes me pretty darn good at my job! 😊

Happy Clients Equal Referrals

Regardless of your specific scenario, once onboarding has been completed, the real work begins to continue to earn that business—and retain it.

Happy clients are more apt to stay with you and to recommend you to their network.

A frequently quoted statistic to note from a 2012 Gartner Group survey states that as much as 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.

Word-of-mouth referrals and client testimonials are powerful—especially in the PR and marketing world.

Does your organization have a dedicated onboarding specialist? Do you follow a different process? I want to hear from you!


*A version of this post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on April 11, 2019 on the Spin Sucks blog at and is cross-posted here with permission. 

Copyright: Understanding Fair Use

While this AMEC North America Measurement Week webinar was the first of the series, it will be my final recap post. I saved the best for last!

International AMEC board member, and License League COO Dan Schaible led this #AMECMM webinar to help us understand the complexities that surround copyright in the digital world we live in today.Copyright Fair Use

Dan began with referencing a portion of United State Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Congress shall have the power… “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. This is what sets up what copyright is, however in that statement is an inherent conflict, Dan commented.

We are all pretty familiar with the concept of Title 17, Subsection 106 of the United States code. This is the part that grants the owner of the copyrighted work the exclusive rights to do and authorize reproductions, copies, derivatives, etc.  However, it’s Subsection 107 that tends to create confusion—the limitations on exclusive rights—fair use. There are four specific factors, that work together, which must be considered to determine fair use.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

I can relate if you’re thinking, “I’m not a lawyer, how am I supposed to be expected to interpret this?” Legal-ese makes my head spin, but the way Dan explains it, with the examples he uses, helps it all to make a little more sense so I highly recommend you check out this short (under 30 minutes) webinar replay.

He focuses on the two points that we, as PR professionals, are most likely to be affected by. In addition, he references two specific copyright-specific court rulings on recent media monitoring cases. (Side note: BurrellesLuce has a copyright compliant article program and agreements with most major publishers as well as individual titles.)

  • Purpose and character of use. Dan says the real defining question is: is the content used in a different manner or for a different purpose from that which was originally copyrighted? He read a portion of a 1990 legal article, written by two judges, dealing with whether the use is “transformative” (which is a valid defense). There is a lot of gray area here and it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion surrounding fair use! Dan claims that fair use is part of the law but some claim it’s only lawful in that it offers a defense to the end user should the use be challenged by the copyright holder.
  • Effect of the use upon the potential market or value. This is a little easier to understand. Dan says the defining question here is: what is the effect of the use on the copyright owner’s ability to exploit the value of their original work.  In other words, is how you’re using it taking potential money out of the owner’s pocket?

Dan cautions that fair use is based on market conditions—as the market changes, so may the judicial rulings.

Webinar moderator, Johna Burke, who’s also AMEC North American Co-Chair and BurrellesLuce CMO, wrapped up with questions to Dan from the participants. He finished-up with some straight-talk about why you need to know these things, the most compelling of which was “so you don’t get sued” (but he had a lot other great answers as well).

I’ve enjoyed learning more about measurement (and copyright) the past couple weeks and hope you have too!


.*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on October 5, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at and is cross-posted here with permission. 

PR Can Speak ROI With Marketing: Be Bold!

AMEC measurement week here in the U.S. may be in our rearview mirror, but the webinar series recaps continue. AMEC North American Co-chair Jeni Lee Chapman was joined by Aron Galonsky, Managing Director of Hotspex US, to talk about bridging the communications gap between PR/communications and marketing—specifically when it comes to ROI (return on investment).

Jeni kicked-off the webinar by sharing some results from a 2015 AMEC study (which included AMEC members from top public relations agencies, measurement firms and corporate communications).

  • 74% of the companies experienced stronger revenue in 2015 vs. 2014
  • 86% agree that PR consultancies recognize the importance of measurement of analytics (up from 72% in 2014)
  • Metrics and tracking systems are in the top 3 priorities according to the Arthur Page Society (comprised of Fortune 500 CCOs)

Any good measurement program begins with conversations—both with management and your marketing counterparts. Jeni and Aron agree that alignment is critical. When this is not the case, it can be difficult to prove that your PR work has increased awareness and engagement—especially when marketing is taking the credit for it (because you are not measuring). Perhaps you don’t have the data you need, or don’t have the budget, or have trouble convincing management of the need (when they just want to see volume of clips).

Five questions to ask when having those conversations, Jeni and Aron recommend:

  • What audiences are PR/communications targeting as compared to marketing?
  • How are we ensuring quality data is being used—not quantitative data that may or may not have value (such as AVEs, impressions, etc.)
  • What are the options for ROI analysis–do you have access to the data you really need?
  • Have we double-checked that we have the right input and outcome variables (tied back to the business objectives)?
  • What is the analysis plan (how do they plan to look at it)?

Setting objectives and creating your alignment model (with the AMEC integrated evaluation framework) in the right context is crucial.  So is having this plan in writing and confirming all interested parties are in agreement.

Aron discussed some of the different ROI modeling from those that are not very complex to those that are highly complex. What you choose all depends on the results of those conversations you’ve had and your subsequent objectives. “If you are not part of the equation, you are not part of the solution, he stated, after explaining key driver analysis, correlation analysis, lift modeling, market mix modeling and more.  Jeni remarked, “what gets measured, gets funded—this is what gives you a seat at the table.”

Throughout the webinar, Jeni and Aron shared some examples and case studies that really made these scenarios easier to understand. If you missed the live webinar, it’s available on demand.

One of their compelling closing comments was, “Experimenting is valid and necessary. Just doing what everyone else is doing is not enough. Be bold!”


.*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on September 30, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at and is cross-posted here with permission. 


Text and Image: PR Power Punch

More and more social networks are adding image recognition to their toolkits. Is this a hot new trend in measurement or have we seen it before? That’s how this AMEC measurement week webinar was described and certainly didn’t disappoint!

PR News Measurement Hall of Famers, Margot Savell, SVP Global Measurement, Research+Data Insights at Hill+Knowlton, , and Johna Burke, AMEC North American Co-chair and BurrellesLuce CMO, teamed up to talk about how, in this world of big data, images (in addition to text) need to be part of your evaluation.

Images are extremely powerful .You remember stories more when an image is associated with it, and therefore, it creates higher return on influence, Margot began.

Did you know that 3.25 billion photos are shared on social channels daily?  By comparison, in 2014, this figure was just 1.8 billion. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the staggering social media statistics that Margot cited. Because these numbers have skyrocketed, the long-time practice of image analytics in traditional media has become this hot new trend in social media. When you think about how many visual stories are being shared every day, think about what you are likely missing if you’re only looking at text. “Are you really capturing all the data that’s going to give you a complete understanding of how your brand is being perceived in social media? I think not,” declared Margot.

She shared that up to 80% of posts with logos do not mention the name of the brand in the text, according to Talkwalker. In my opinion, that statistic alone should scare you into paying attention to visuals—think about how much you are missing if you’re only monitoring for and reporting on text!

Photo journalism and images have been important since the turn of the century, Johna chimed in, it’s a bit of what’s old is new again with all the eyes on social media now. “People are exposed to more and more information, however they are less informed. Naturally, the human eye is drawn to a headline and an image—the two main factors that determine how people are going to spend their time consuming information and news. So, any program that doesn’t include imagery is really missing out on a huge segment.” Making all these other metrics we talk about incomplete if we aren’t taking these images into consideration.

She went through several examples, straight from the headlines, featuring well-known brands, and discussed the images as they relate to reputation management, crisis communications and more. One of these examples demonstrated color photos on the newspaper section front page (but no brand mention in teaser text) and then black and white photos with the story itself. If you were not monitoring the actual print publication and the images it used, you are not really seeing the whole picture. These examples and analogies really made the concepts come to life for me and I believe they will for you as well. (You can see and listen to the playback here.)

Margot and Johna answered some additional measurement questions, shared off-the-cuff thoughts and even offered some examples of how using vanity metrics (or as Johna calls it, “low-hanging fruit”) give a completely inaccurate depiction and do not contribute to deeper brand insights.

Bottom line? We need to be sure we are making true data-driven decisions that tie-back to the overall business objectives, and that requires us to be completely informed. Johna believes it boils down to listening / watching, reacting and applying the logic..

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on September 27, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at and is cross-posted here with permission. 

How to Use the New AMEC Measurement Framework—A Practical Session

For this  webinar, guest experts Richard Bagnall and Giles Peddy joined us from across the pond while AMEC North American Co-chair (and BurrellesLuce CMO) Johna Burke moderated. Richard took pole position with the fascinating story about how the sad state of PR measurement back in the 1990’s spurred the formation of the AMEC organization, which eventually led to the creation of the Barcelona Principles in 2010 and more recently, the Integrated Evaluation Framework.

The Integrated Evaluation Framework better reflects today’s public relations environment, where we’re working across Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media. The PESO model was developed and championed by Gini Dietrich, a well-known industry thought leader and author of Spin Sucks.

Richard described how we now “must measure across all these different channels if we’re going to give a credible measurement of the work that we’re doing.” He cautioned that we must be careful to not “just count what’s easy to count but we measure what really matters” to the business. (To hear this in that splendid British accent, you’ll need to listen to the playback!)

The Integrated Evaluation Framework helps us to stop measuring in silos and brings it all together. Giles then talked about the context to the framework stating that communication professionals must show the effect that their work had on the business objective—not just output metrics (aka vanity metrics).  He explained how a diverse global group was put together and worked for an entire year to create what is now a free, non-proprietary, step-by-step process—essentially “how to operationalize the Barcelona Principles”.

Interactive Evaluation Framework

When you land on the website, you’ll find a tile-based, simple to use, clickable worksheet that can be completed right on the site itself (and then download the finished product). Giles walked us through many of the steps which include descriptions and inline help text—way too much information to incorporate into a blog post, so I encourage you to listen to the playback of this presentation and go explore the site. To be honest, for me, this whole concept seemed very complicated and a bit overwhelming—that is, until I attended this webinar!

Giles went on to share how the initial response has been overwhelmingly positive. Lewis PR and many other major agencies and consultancies have already adopted the model, along with the UK government. It’s also being shared with and by other PR and communications trade organizations (such as the US-based Institute for Public Relations) as the key model to use.

Richard chimed in, “In the end, this framework helps you run your campaign effectively and measure it in a way that allows you to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve, understand what success would look like, agree on the targets, plan to run your campaign effectively and measure it appropriately.” However, he explained, that isn’t the end. You need to then take that information and the “flow of the process and tell your measurement story around it. You need to then bring it to life about how you did your work, what it meant for the business, how it helped and, importantly, what you’ve learned—what perhaps didn’t work as well as you had expected and what you’re going to be doing differently.”

Johna summed it up with “this is such a great resource for everyone, whether you have an existing successful measurement program and team or you’re just starting out, to really create and to utilize a program that’s been implemented on your behalf” and is such a great resource.

*This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on September 26, 2016, on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at and is cross-posted here with permission.