Lessons we’ve learned from our clients
It probably comes as no surprise that I care about communicating well. After all, I am a Project Manager at a communications firm.
I don’t just mean sending a powerful message through a bold visual identity or having a singular voice that shines in all of your materials (though I care a great deal about all that too!)—I mean how you communicate internally on a day-to-day basis, with your colleagues, partners, board members, and any other person who plays a key role in your work.
Throughout my time at Big Duck, I’ve seen again and again how strong communication at every stage of a project is essential to the success of a campaign or rebranding effort. We happen to have the pleasure, and benefit, of working with some amazing clients whose openness, directness, and sensitivity to tight timelines have taught us a thing or two (or three) about good communication. Here are the biggest lessons the others Ducks and I have picked up from our clients.
1. There’s no such thing as a stupid question.
You don’t have to put on a perfect, professional, or even distant front to come across as smart. Some of the most successful collaborations I’ve been part of as a Project Manager have emerged because of a client’s honesty about their inexperience in a specific area or their willingness to ask a question about something they’ve found confusing. I don’t think they are unqualified or too new to be respected. On the contrary, I think they are brilliant, and fantastic allies to work with.
2. Don’t be afraid to disagree.
For the longest time, I thought disagreeing meant sharing bad news, but some of my favorite clients have made me realize that it’s an inevitable part of working with others toward a shared goal. In fact, it’s usually an indicator of a meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership. Every person has a unique and valuable perspective to bring, and sharing that perspective openly and honestly matters, even if it means disagreeing. Our clients have taught me that you can be clear and upfront about what you want or need without being mean, confrontational, or disrespectful. Really, don’t be afraid to say no.
3. Keep people posted.
It takes about ten seconds to write and send an email that says, “Okay, I’m looking into it” or, “I’ll need a day to get back to you”, and it prevents a ton of headaches and frustration—especially when timing is tight. With campaigns specifically, which can be quite speedy and full of different moving pieces, good communication and timely communication are often one and the same. It’s when I’m waiting on someone else for something and someone I’m working with is waiting on a different someone else for a different something that I’ve most appreciated a well-timed status update. And now, on days when everything is flying, I try to be proactive about keeping my colleagues and clients in the loop.