Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When should communicators push back against clients' bad requests?

I just finished leading Be an Expert on Working with Experts, my popular workshop for communications pros, in Austria earlier this week. And at some point during that day, no matter where I do the workshop, we talk about pushing back against unreasonable requests that experts make when they work with communications pros. (For the record, we also talk about the tactics experts use to push back against communicators' requests and how to handle that.)

Sometimes, participants express a reticence to push back--it seems ungrateful, impolite, outside your job description. Maybe even arrogant. But a non-anxious, needed pushback might just be a requirement, particularly when working with unreasonable demands. My own favorite laid-back, slightly humorous pushback line? "We're not that desperate for the publicity. How about we try x instead?"

Pushback really may be one of the most important tools in your arsenal as a communications pro. In The professional pushes back, Seth Godin shares some examples of what that looks like in your world:
The marketer won't help his client produce a spammy campaign filled with tricks and deceptions, because she knows that her career is the sum of her work. 
The statesman won't rush to embrace the bloodlust of the crowd, because statesmen govern in favor of our best instincts, not our worst ones. 
There are plenty of people who will pander, race to the bottom and figure out how to, "give the public what it wants." But that doesn't have to be you. Professionals have standards. Professionals push back.
So, before you start pushing back, you need standards--and everyone on your team needs to know what they are. Then all of your clients need to know what they are, a process that should be continual, not just once or twice. Do you know your standards, and where you will need to push back? This is a great ongoing exercise to do with your communications team, and sometimes, with your clients.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Jon-Paul LeClair)

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