One of my closest friends is a lawyer. He and I talk business all the time. After moving to California and passing the Bar Exam, my attorney friend set up his solo practice, and is working hard to establish himself professionally.
Our discussions are lively. I grill my friend about contract law, ethics and, I get to learn about how the law is applied to day-to-day circumstances. But our real affinity comes from elsewhere. While he grows his solo legal practice, the evolution of my solo PR practice mirrors his. I’m struck lately by how similar what we do is.
Both publicists and attorneys strive to represent clients to the best of their abilities. We help clients share their story, knowing that a judge will rule on the facts of the case. And while legal clients plead their case in the court of law, entrepreneurs are tried in the court of public opinion.
And while my job is to present the best version of the truth, I know it’s not the full story. My clients hide things from me. Sometimes–often–important things. Whether intentional, or accidental, it’s a tricky part of our professional relationship. As a lawyer will tell you, there’s always two sides to a story. There’s no perfect client or business. It’s important to complete due diligence before entering into a relationship, but if I were waiting for the unblemished, inoffensive and media-ready client to walk up to my door, I wouldn’t last long in the business.
Just like my attorney friend, I take the good and bad parts of a client’s story, get them ready for the public, and help them reach the outcome they desire. I don’t like it when my clients hide things from me, but it happens. I need to be prepared for it. But while the public may be fickle, they know when something works, and are very unforgiving when people try to pull a fast one.
Attorneys and PRs are here to help. If we don’t get the full story, and something blows up, it’s very, very hard for us to do our job after the fact. That doesn’t mean we won’t do everything in our power to get the desired outcome, it just means the relationship will be strained afterwards.