How to Deal with A Difficult Client

woman blaming businessmen via laptop

Have you ever experienced a client relationship where something is off? Perhaps the client demands to see every pitch you write, or asks to be put in touch directly with your media contacts. They don’t believe you “get” them and no matter how many hours of work you put in, they never think it’s enough. If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. 

PR has always been a high-pressure, performance-based profession. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and that pressure is amplified. Your clients may be looking to you now more than ever to produce results, however sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. Here are 5 tips for how to deal with a difficult client. 


Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Why do they behave the way they do? What are they trying to achieve? What are they worried about? Especially now, while COVID has pushed people to their limits, consider that it may have triggered your client to behave erratically (or that is to say, more so than usual). Keep your cool, hear them out, and to our second point… 


Difficult clients think they know everything, when in fact if they were running their own PR they might end up burning more bridges than building them. Your job is to offer counsel – you work with the media everyday and you know what they’re looking for, so speak up. Don’t follow through on a bad idea just because the client suggests it. Be compassionate but direct and remind them this is your area of expertise. 


Is your client calling or texting you during non-work hours? Are those calls often unnecessary or even worse, abusive? Learn when not to pick up. If it’s not a weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., you are not obligated to answer (unless it’s an emergency). The moment you let a difficult client know they can reach you off the clock, they will take advantage. 


Difficult clients want to see your work, but you’re not obligated to show everything they request. Instead, be thorough in the work that you do send so they know you’re on top of it. Detailed monthly status reports, providing talking points and media briefs before interviews, and thoughtful recommendations are all ways to prove to a client that you are working for them, not against them. 


When all is said and done, you are doing the best you can. Don’t let someone get inside your head and make you feel less than you’re worth. If you’re getting the Sunday scaries before a Monday meeting, take a deep breath and remind yourself that for every difficult client there is a wonderful client who makes your job worth it. 

Want more tips for dealing with difficult clients (or people in general)? Check out 20 Expert Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People