3 tips to prepare for pushback

Trying new things is hard. And when those new things fall outside of your area of expertise AND cost you money, taking the plunge is even harder. This is how some of our clients might feel when we enter a meeting with a list of new things to try. While they might be struggling to see how our ideas can help them, we feel confident that what we propose will help them reach their goals. How do we rectify the situation? We have to be prepared to politely and professionally address their pushback. 

We asked our team how they respond when a new idea is met with caution, and the team responded with three general recommendations: come prepared, provide examples and ask questions.

Come prepared

Taylor – When I recommend a tactic to a client that is completely new and uncharted territory, I try to prepare data in advance to support my recommendation. For example, if I am recommending a client embark on a new social media platform, I can gather data that demonstrates their target audience is using the platform heavily to make business or consumer decisions. With evidence and a benefit-focused hypothesis in my back pocket, I feel confident in providing this guidance even if I face hesitancy.

Jenna – When I have an idea for a new tactic, I share my thoughts with the client by running down what the goal of the tactic is, back it up with an example if I’ve done it for a different account and answer any questions they may have. If they are hesitant, we can usually agree to try a modified version and troubleshoot it. 

Whitney – Over time, I’ve learned that many clients prefer visuals to support ideas. If I feel passionately about a recommended tactic, I try to find some kind of visual aid(s) to support my thinking. It could be a photo, image, graphic, chart or anything that provides a visual explanation of what I’m recommending to the client. 

Lauren – My advice is to come prepared to scale it back and propose a test run. If someone is hesitant to go with your initial idea or delve into something new, have an idea of how you could execute the idea on a smaller scale to give them a glimpse of how it could work before going all in. Aim to meet in the middle! 

Murray – For my clients, I am often sending event opportunities their way. If I think an event is a great fit for their organization, I come to the table armed with a plethora of information. Think estimated attendance or the previous year’s attendance if it’s an annual shindig. Ticket price is also an important detail to note. This oftentimes impacts attendee demographics, giving me another opportunity to recommend participating if the expected demographic matches that of our client’s.

Provide examples

Courtney – If a client has trouble seeing our perspective or challenges an idea that we know is in their best interest from a PR standpoint, it is usually quite helpful to provide historical examples. Sharing times that a client did “A” and when a client did “B” (without sharing proprietary info, of course!) and then outlining the results makes it more real and shows cause and effect. It offers us the chance to walk through choices and strategy and connect them with how those translate into outcomes.

Carlee – When I recommend a new tactic to a client who’s hesitant, I always like to use examples of past client successes. This can help ease the client’s mind knowing that this worked for someone else – and that it could work for them too!

Christina – To back up my recommendation, I usually cite a previous example that worked (or didn’t work) for another client. For instance, if a client with a hyperlocal announcement wants to distribute a release on a newswire, I can tell them an outcome of a similar client and explain how we garnered more success through direct outreach and personal, thoughtful pitches. Most of the time, clients trust our expertise. But they don’t always see things the way we do, so it’s our job to clearly explain why we recommend Option A over Option B. Referencing real-life examples can paint that clearer picture for them. 

Brittany – When offering advice to clients that may be hesitant toward some of our recommendations, I feel that providing examples of similar situations from previous clients is helpful. For example – for those on similar budgets in advertising campaigns as previous clients, it may be helpful to share a few success stories from these campaigns and the results we saw. At Obsidian, we create a number of case studies to prove our success in past efforts that illustrate our knowledge and skill when it comes to our recommended tactics. 

Ask questions

Gracie – If a client pushes back on a recommendation, I’ve learned that it helps to ask very pointed questions to get to the root of why they’re pushing back. We can’t effectively and strategically pivot our recommendation or stand firm in our recommendation unless we know the why behind their pushback. And, sometimes the client may not even know the “why”! Asking questions can help get to a resolution.

Kelli – ​​If a client is opposed to a specific tactic or strategy, I first try to find out why that is. Sometimes, it’s purely related to money, or it might be that they personally haven’t had success doing it. Once I know why, we can discuss the data, real-world examples if I’ve had successes with other clients and what the expectation should be for the outcome. Then I’ll try to find a way to try it out, sort of “get their feet wet” without fully committing. I’ll track the trial very closely and report back on the success. This might be related to a new page on their website, a new social platform or trying a wire release, among many other things. If I’m confident in my recommendation and I can get them to try it in a small way, it helps build confidence in both our team and the recommendation as a whole. 

Mary Carter – Because I’m new to the team, I usually don’t handle these situations firsthand. But as they come up on my accounts, I try to watch how my senior approaches the conversation. If I notice a pattern across multiple clients I try to make note of it and ask a senior what their “general approach” is so I can build a better basic understanding of client relations. I like that the OPR culture really supports such a collaborative and teaching environment.