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Navigating Rough Waters: A Guide To Working With Difficult Clients

By Ali Sessions, Assistant Account Executive

Working with clients in the public relations field can be fun, challenging, and sometimes

frustrating. While having a positive relationship with your clients is essential, you will inevitably have clients who are difficult to work with. With these tips, you can turn these challenging situations with clients into opportunities for growth and success.

Understand Their Perspective

The first thing you can do when managing difficult clients is to understand where they are coming from regarding the current issue. Consider what might be driving their behavior or demands. Is it pressure from their supervisors, or do they know how the PR process works? Your client may need you to explain a part of the work you are doing again.

I had a client I was trying to get a quote from for a news release, and he didn’t understand what I was asking. I ended up rewording and explaining what type of quote I needed from him. Understanding this way of thinking can help you develop an approach and find common ground you can work with.

Setting And Managing Expectations

Setting realistic expectations from the onset is crucial in managing difficult clients. Ensure you clearly define the scope of work, timelines, deliverables, and limitations. Be honest about what is and is not possible within your work. Managing these expectations is an ongoing process as you work with clients.

You need to continuously educate your clients on the realistic outcomes that they can expect. You should have an ongoing process to reassure the client of the expectations that you have set. These will help you manage your client’s expectations and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings later on.

Keep Communication Open

Effective communication is essential to managing difficult clients. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage regular check-ins to provide updates or address any

concerns as they pop up.

Plan to anticipate any needs and address potential issues before they escalate. If you don’t continuously communicate with your client, the client will not know if they can ask you questions or tell you things they need. Listening is an essential factor in communication. Give your client a chance to express their concerns and frustrations and validate their feelings before you try to offer a solution to the problem.


Working with challenging clients is a common aspect of PR agency work. To navigate these

situations effectively, it's crucial to understand clients' perspectives, set clear expectations, and maintain open communication. With patience, staying professional, and having a strategic approach, difficult client situations can be turned into opportunities for professional growth and success in the PR industry.



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