Regardless of the line of business you’re in, you’re bound to run into a few customers who will put your patience and communication skills to test. Some need you to spend more time explaining what you’re doing than actually doing your job, others think they know your profession better than you do, some will take too long to respond when there’s an emergency at hand. But when it comes to public relations and nightmare customers, these are the ones we fear most.

1. The DIY customer

When something’s going on, why bother talking to the PR guy in your company or to the company you pay to handle such issues? Go ahead and make your own statements, release them and then have the people you initially ignored clean your mess. Think of the Cleavland Cavalier owner who decided a post attacking LeBron James was a good reaction to the player’s decision to choose another team.

Attacks, rushed statements, strong words powered by momentary anger, they all damage a company’s image. Once they are out, it is much harder to patch them then it is to take 5 minutes and discuss what you’re about to do beforehand.

2. The walking disaster when it comes to being spontaneous

You might be the greatest PR agency ever, you might have the best strategy in place and a nice plan to handle everything. Once your customer is in a constant spotlight, if he or she can’t handle statements made on the spur of the moment and has the habit of saying the wrong thing, you’re doomed. Think BP here and the “I want my life back” statement. While honest and heartfelt, no one cared Tony Hayward’s life was not as good anymore when others had died and many more were losing their livelihood and were bound to suffer the consequences of the oil spill for many years to come.

3. The “Do your thing, I’ll do mine” customer

While in the first case we were dealing with a customer that we knew would take PR in his/her own hands and in case two we talked about spontaneous reactions which are harder to control, our third nightmare customer is even more tricky to deal with. It’s that customer who will consult you on the matters at hand, will let you come up with a solution, strategy, plan, methods etc, will seem to agree on the best course of actions and then surprise you by doing the exact opposite. It’s that customer that you spend months with explaining how to write a proper news release to then take the next big launch and release something that goes against everything you have discussed and it is filled with mistakes so obvious even a rookie would pick up. The even better part is when your name and company are sent together with it 🙂

What about you? What do you fear most when it comes to your customers? What other scary types have you run into or heard of?

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