We let the facts do the talking.

Navigating the First 100 Days: Building Trust and Success with a New Client Relationship

New Account? DONE and WON.

So, what’s next?

Just like any relationship, the first 100 days are pivotal.

From the minute the contracts are signed, (or, as the cool kids at Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy would say, DocuSigned) all eyes are on you to observe the kind of experience you are going to provide those that have officially appointed you as the voice of their brand; nothing like the Ariel and Ursula transaction though. This is a whole lot more legit.

How legit?

The client has admitted that they require your expertise to solve a problem they are currently facing and the new union has established a state of euphoria, much like the first few weeks of a relationship. You talk all the time, every decision made is a unanimous one where you exclaim the answer at the count of three, every billboard you see is for you and every tweet an emotional trigger.

But let’s not get carried away. It’s a dopamine thing and at the first sign of a creative or caption gone wrong, buyer’s remorse enters.

You know you’ve reached this phase, which is absolutely normal within the first 100 days, but can have you biting your nails at 7:30 AM on a Friday morning, when your partner is giving you the silent treatment. This is natural because, as with any new relationship, you’re awarded the opportunity to prove your case. The use of testimonials, success stories and management intervention are integral to mitigating current state of doubt. The client needs to experience care at the highest level, which includes micro-management by senior members within the corporate hierarchy.

The honeymoon phase of your client lifecycle kicks off with time-to-first value – the sooner they see your added value in terms of personalising their experience, your offerings and your (pseudo) undivided attention, the sooner they adopt it. To get technical, or just sound smart, it’s an asymmetrical risk VS reward situation; go above and beyond for the first 100 days to see a long-term reward on your investment.

Needless to say, this timeline includes your weekends and potential midnight meals but it’s all for a good cause – we want our new partner to fall in love.


However, we’re getting there.

At this point, you’re going to make mistakes (wrong hashtags? Been there, done that. Incorrect logo placement on creatives? Been there, cried while fixing that.) You’re meant to miss your life before that contract was signed and wonder if someone else on the team can takeover because it feels like an impossible feat to overcome.

But here’s the thing – you’re still learning.

The key steps to surviving the first 100 days is to accept that you’re in this together –

  • The client knows their brand, and their messaging and they’re here to walk you through it.
  • As communication professionals, your consultation on new age PR, digital PR, social media, branding and more, comes from research, experience and insights and this is why they chose you as their new partner.

Communicate. Weekly status meetings, WhatsApp groups and lengthy voice notes, it’s all normal.

Do your homework. Learn all you can about the ex (a little online stalking to get familiar with their previous agency and their work). This gives insight into their experience, the reason for their transition and what you need to do to stand out. There’s no manual handy for onboarding a client, so build a system that suits you and the client as part of your efforts to customise the partnership.

Establish KPIs AND fears in the first 100 days. Know what you’re working towards and what you’re working with. There comes a point when both parties are frustrated and it seems like you are at a stalemate. That’s when you know you’ve hit rock bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up. Once again, it’s time to prove your case.

As a new partner, it is up to you to pay close attention to the client’s communication tonality, body language, anxiety levels. Weathering these 100 days and all the pressure it brings requires all the grace and caffeine you can muster to ensure you cement your role as a trusted extension of their business and not just a vendor.

Once you hear the words, ‘I trust you’, (repeat after me), you’re in love.

Riya Vatnani is Senior Account Manager at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |