working towards great client service

The power of Honesty


Words: Kim Thuy Vy (s3372963)

To many people, PR or advertising is a lie job, because they manipulate people’s behavior, and telling lie to others. As PR/Advertisers can promote, build reputation for many brands, so what is the core strategy to help them build their own reputation?

Jordan Nguyen, Account Director of Vero Public Relation shared with me his magical secret to brand yourselves, enhance reputation for agency, and to turn client, to loyal client.

His secret is simple: Be honest!

Trust is the foundation of every relationship, and without it, every business can easily be destroyed (Shapiro et al 1992). And to Jordan (2013), the foundation of trust is honesty.

“If agent wants to stand out in the crowed of many competitors, and become the trusted partners of clients, agents have to build the trust. To do that, be honest is the powerful way to build the trust relationship and gain credibility.” (Jordan 2013)


Honesty is powerful than tons of trophies

Photo made by Bui Kim Thuy Vy 2012

A few years ago, on a campaign of U. Organization across 32 provinces, Jordan’s friend, who was in charge of following and keeping record of media broadcast of the U’s campaign in all 32 provinces. Unfortunately, she only kept 20 records of the end, and it was impossible to come back to all the other provinces to get the record back, despite the fact that they truly had the media covered the campaign.

She was too scared to tell the true to client U, so she faked the records, sent to client and pretended like nothing happened. The boss in U. Organization didn’t realize it, however, his subordinate found out. As a result, client was extremely angry and abandoned her from working or involving with any U. organization’s project. Of course, the agency received similar impacts with label “Dishonesty”, even they are the famous agency with many achievements in the past.

If she was brave, and told the truth to client, and ensure that the media had broadcasted but unfortunately they lost the records, and clients can call and ask these stations to check. Then, client may angry, but at least client understands that the account person was honest with them, instead of faking record and loses trust. And with trust, once you lose it, it’s gone forever (Jordan 2013).

Be honest: May lose client once, but will have them “forever”

Ok, forever is a little bit exaggeration, forever in here I mean “loyalty”.

I heard many questions about should we say “No” to client, or “Never say no to client”. However, when you are honest, “No” is “No”. When clients ask for something that you are not capable of, say “No”, not “Yes”, or “May be”.

Years ago, Susan, a long-time client of Jordan, who has worked with Jordan in 3 projects and very happy with his work, came and asked Jordan to do for her another project. However, at that time, Jordan was handling many projects and he could not have his original team at Golden to work for Susan. Thus, Jordan’s boss recommended him to work with outsources team. Jordan accepted Susan’s project with a new team, without informing Susan. What will come, will come, the project was terrible, the new team cannot understand client’s ideas well, and Jordan had difficult time in communication with his new team. Let’s think about what happens when Jordan was honest

  1. If Jordan told Susan about the problems, she may understand and try to solve the problem with Jordan, and the result may better, if not, she will accept it because she has go through with it.
  2. Or if Susan know and choose another team to work, surely she will work with Jordan in another project and Jordan still the number one option of Susan.

Unfortunately, Jordan chose to be dishonest, which broke the 5 years relationship with Susan, and this is the most regret things to Jordan, and it is nearly impossible to gain trust again. He advices us that if problems occurs during projects that account only can solve 50-60%, tell clients, they deserve to know and has responsible to solve problem together with agency. Thus, if the worst situation happens in the end, they cannot blame you for not telling them.


Be honest with clients, they might go but surely they will come back

Photo by 2012

Our case: Negotiation activities

I used to think that honesty is should not apply in negotiation, because you never know whether they will also be honest with you. And that cause lose – lose result for us in the negotiation activities of Client Management class, none of the team can achieve the compromise or collaborating deal.


Photo made by Bui Kim Thuy Vy (2013)

The task was to buy enough amount targets of Daisy Flowers. Naturally, both of teams aim to win all, and get the best for their own. We lie and said the target higher than the real one, hided as much information as we could, and let the other team had to guess, and pray that other team will accept our proposal. At the end, both of the team lost, only till then, we saw the fact that both teams can achieve win-win situation. Then I realize, the reasons for our failure, is fail to be honest. If at the beginning, we were honest and exchange all information in the handout we got, we can gain the trust and solve problem together.

However, workplace is not the same within classroom.


Photo by (2012)

Yes, honesty is the powerful magic that can apply in most cases to gain trust, build credibility, gain and enhance loyal relationship. However, Jordan provides some cases that we can be less honest with clients.

–          Minor problems during projects that already solved.

–          Your negative feeling about job position, subordinates, boss or company. Clients do not need to know.

–          Their appearances, past projects, past campaigns. If you intend to give negative comment, think twice, and rethink, provide rationale to support the comment is a must.

And remember, less honest doesn’t mean telling lie. You just don’t tell them what they don’t need to know.

Lie is the enemies of trust (Galford and Drapeau 2003). Especially in Viet Nam, and other Asian culture like China, we have a belief that: “When someone lies once, they will do it for thousand times”. Thus, re-build it will be thousand times harder than keep it.

Thus, in any situation, be honest or less honest, but don’t lie!

Proof of life photo taken by Amy Nguyen (2013)

Jordan Nguyen, Account Director of Vero Public Relation. Before working for Vero, Jordan has worked several years in Ha Noi. He had worked for Golden Communication Group for more than 5 years and has 8 years experiences in communication industry.

Word count: 1092

*Name of persons and organizations has been changed to ensure the ethical of this article.

Galford, R & Drapeau, S 2003, ‘The Enemies of Trust’, Harvard Business Review, February, pp.88-95.

Shapiro, D.L. Sheppard, BH & Cheraskin, L 1992, ’Business on a handshake’, Negotiation Journal, October, pp. 365-377.


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One thought on “The power of Honesty

  1. -“To many people, PR or advertising is a lie job” REPHRASE – is a dishonest profession.

    -Good intro of points at the start, on what to look out for from the interview article.

    -Interesting view about being ‘less honest’ but can be REPHRASED- sometimes to make sure the relationship goes smooth, be careful of TMI! Too much information 🙂

    -Overall, good job in making your interviewee trust you with his personal stories. However, the points raised lacked a bit of connection from one story to the next.

    -Also, do not introduce a new line of discussion at the end: “Thus, re-build it will be thousand times harder than keep it.”; if you are not able to follow through with tips on how to achieve it.

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