December 22, 2021
This post discusses Axia Public Relations’ CEO’s presentation to Loyola University students. In the presentation, Jason Mudd shared some of his experiences as a PR expert, Axia’s team values and ideals, as well as how the pandemic has affected the PR industry.
Audio: Listen to this article.
Real stories about the essence of PR
As careful as you might be, you can’t always avoid trouble. In the words of Mudd, “Sometimes, the crisis finds you.” Keep reading for real stories that demonstrate that fact as well as how PR is the solution.
The FBI raid
The FBI stormed the office of one of Axia’s clients and began to cart away their computers and other belongings. They actually came to seize the computer of a wanted person who formerly worked there, thinking he was still with the company.
Thankfully, he was no longer an employee of Axia’s client at the time he executed the action the FBI was concerned about. Axia helped the company coordinate the communication with other tenants to explain the issue.
The hostage situation
Someone showed up at Axia’s client’s office, upset about an issue. Actually, he was frustrated at another company but confused about the address. He held someone in the office hostage, demanding the company make right what happened to him.
Though the police and security helped him get the help he needed, he had contacted the local media earlier and sent a video of his complaint with the individual and company.
Axia helped their client manage the crisis even though they were putting together an event for another client at the same time.
The email scandal
An Axia client was involved in a joint venture promotion with a school system in which they were offering a special to students and parents. They sent off an email blast to 150,000 students and parents.
No one on the school board reviewed the email, and there was no quality control. The email contained expletives, and the parents weren’t too pleased about it.
They hurriedly sent a revised email with the controversial section deleted but without an apology nor hint at what they did wrong. The school system found this unsatisfactory as they wanted a full apology.
Our client fired off another email blast with an apology but failed to confirm with the school system if they’d be happy with the apology. The school was not satisfied with the apology and had the client send out another statement. Thus, there were four different email blasts over one matter.
The experience emphasized the need for diverse minds to collaborate on projects, be it another PR agency, board, committee, or colleagues. This will make room for diverse perspectives. The target audience was a sensitive one. Utmost care must be exercised, particularly when dealing with formal entities.
Crisis communications in the COVID era
The pandemic was viewed as a crisis because everyone was under pressure. With traditional roles in mind, women were especially stressed as they had to work and homeschool their kids. Women were also working full time from home and had to cope with the distractions of the environment.
Fortunately, our CEO had experience with homeschooling, so he could help a client who was trying out the waters for the first time.
The pandemic witnessed the significance of PR climbing astronomically because corporate communications became essential for both internal and external communications to all. Optimistic messages were the order of the day, and we did them for our clients.
Axia was quite prepared, thanks to a disaster recovery mindset honed for a decade now; we, however, didn’t just expect the pandemic.
Tips for dealing with clients and maintaining client relationships
There are best practices and strategies necessary to foster client relationships during the pandemic.
1. Become a therapist to your clients
In the words of Mudd, “Behind every B2B transaction is a B2C relationship. Never forget the human side because people do business with those they like, know, and trust.” While Axia focused on being the best PR agency, we equally concentrated on being caring and nice.
It helps to be involved in the lives of your clients as much as possible.
2. Patronize your clients
At Axia, we firmly believe in doing business with our clients. We also recognize they are busy, so we emphasize being smart, brief, and efficient. If possible, offer to pick them up on the way to work; it’ll present a ripe moment for them to check out work you’ve done for them.
If you apply this tactic, it might help to think of their breakfast and how to get them back home from work. It’s an opportunity to pass a solid message.
What’s more? Show you did your due diligence. That’s an example of being efficient with their time because when they’re explaining a related issue to you, they know they won’t have to start from scratch.
3. Keep the flag of diversity flying
With a ravaging pandemic, crisis communications that neglect diversity will cause brands to make decisions in boxed environments. Without room for others’ opinions, the company’s PR aspirations might hit the rocks.
When making decisions, some questions worth asking are:
- To whom are we marketing this; the board room or the living room?
- Is this helpful to the audience?
- Does this help the audience get better?
- Does this help the audience at their job?
4. Ask your clients questions about themselves
Asking your clients questions about themselves helps build relationships. When having a conversation, don’t make it all about you. You can ask them about their role at the company, their expectations for the meeting, and even their family.
We extend the same pleasantness to our workforce. At Axia, we apply a daily checklist in which we monitor the following:
- The previous day’s accomplishments
- Today’s tasks
- Obstacles to achieving today’s goals
- How our teammates and their family are doing
This practice proved ideal for us during the pandemic, and sharing thoughts and feelings didn’t feel weird. We recognize that mental health is impactful, and obviously, “How are you and your family?” sounds personal, caring, and almost always elicits a response.
These core values have helped Axia record an impressive streak of 63 months with no employee turnover.
When discussing with your clients, ask questions that prompt self-reflection. Constantly asking “why” will have you on the path to becoming a trusted advisor and problem solver.
What does take to be the candidate of choice at Axia?
Mudd looks out for candidates who show how their presence will make things easier for the company.
For him, LinkedIn is the preferred way to scout talent. When writing your resume, instead of singing your praise, show the value you brought your employer. It’s best to do this in a way that’s quantifiable and measurable. It must provide something concrete.
What surprised you about the PR industry and what have you learned?
Mudd has learned that reputation is everything for both PR pros and their clients. He has also learned to pace himself and work in a more collaborative pattern so he’s not overly task-focused.
Additionally, he has learned to respect people’s feelings, never forget core values, and always maintain integrity. Some more lessons are to avoid shortcuts and prioritize honesty, even if it means being vulnerable.
However, he had some unexpected experiences. He noticed that as he grew in the industry, he lost lots of “friends” who had now become competitors. It didn’t make sense to him. Thankfully, he has made great friendships in the industry with people who are more expansive thinkers. Whatever the case, friends or foes, just preserve your reputation and integrity.
Finally, always take the high road. Ask yourself “Will I be proud of this move 10 years from now?” If you can answer that question with a bold “yes,” then you’re good to go.
Many brands and PR firms have had a hard time with their PR ambitions since the pandemic began. Download our e-book on how to manage public relations in a crisis.
Clients love Jason’s passion, candor, and commitment as well as the team he has formed at Axia Public Relations. He's advised some of America’s most admired brands, including American Airlines, Dave & Buster’s, Hilton, HP, Pizza Hut, and Verizon. He is an Emmy Award-winning, accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author, and entrepreneur and earned his certification in inbound marketing. He founded the PR firm in July 2002. Learn more about Jason.