3 Ways To Build Good Client Relationships

People seated at a table with computers fist bump each other, seen from above.


Any consultant knows that good client relationships can be the difference between loving our work or wanting to take a permanent vacation. When a relationship isn’t working how we hoped it would, it’s easy to point the finger—the client may think “the consultant doesn’t understand us” while the consultant complains “the client isn’t giving us the insights we need.”

The truth is that a positive client relationship—like any good relationship—is a two-way street. At Minerva Strategies, we developed a “client relationship evaluator” that we periodically use to check up on our client relationships and ensure we’re doing everything we can to build the best experiences for all. Below we share three actions that have reliably improved our working relationships.


Many of us spend about half of our waking hours working, so it’s critical to enjoy this time as much as possible. This doesn’t mean that every moment of work will be “fun.” Instead, enjoying work literally means infusing it with joy. This isn’t always easy when our clients are tackling decidedly unjoyful topics like climate change, corporal punishment in schools, homelessness, and systemic racism.

A critical piece of finding joy in our work is celebrating the wins and partnering with clients that celebrate as well. It’s common for humans—due to our negativity bias—to focus on the problems to be solved rather than the things that are going well. However, focusing on what is going well can have tremendous value to our outlook and motivation.

In addition to impromptu team chats and DMs hyping each other up, the Minerva team celebrates by calling out wins like beautiful newsletters or media hits with clients, sharing internal highlights each week on our team calls, and making sure we’re checking in on the relationship (what is working and what isn’t) regularly with clients. It’s important that we take a moment to appreciate the effort these accomplishments require and celebrate success even when—or maybe especially when—there is still so much more to do.

Fireworks explode in a variety of colors.


As any relationship therapist can tell you, two-way communication—that is communicating and listening—is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Many client relationship challenges can be prevented or resolved by clear and kind communication.

Clearly communicating boundaries and expectations could look like all parties outlining what they expect in terms of responsiveness or turnaround times or having thorough conversations about what is needed before assigning projects. Good communication practices include not only soliciting feedback, but also being clear about what kind of feedback is most helpful. In addition, giving constructive, timely, and direct feedback helps us make adjustments that align with our clients’ needs.  

It’s also important to communicate early and often when a project is hitting roadblocks instead of pushing through and hoping challenges resolve with time. Most often, challenges that are not directly addressed grow, not the other way around. Only direct communication provides a reliable route to resolution.

Respect expertise

We use a shared agreement from the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) during facilitation sessions that goes something like, “everyone knows a little, but together we know a lot.” A good starting point for every relationship is respecting and being open to each parties’ unique expertise.

Clients bring valuable perspectives to communications, even if they aren’t communications professionals themselves. The folks we work with are close to the challenges their organizations are facing, hold strong relationships with their audiences, and provide the subject matter expertise we need to do our job well.  

At the same time, we often face push back from people who do not understand the value of investing in communications, or who expect immediate or unrealistic results. In some cases, value is only placed on one form of success—for example, a high-value media placement. But all the effort put in to secure that placement, such as months of relationship building, understanding journalists’ interests and beat, and a well-timed pitch, goes unnoticed and undervalued. As do many of the other necessary elements that lay the foundation for strong and sustainable communications.    

An effective partnership respects the strengths, perspectives, and training each person brings to the table and builds systems that put these assets to good use. While people with various perspectives may disagree about the best path forward, shared respect for each other and our expertise will ensure these disagreements are an opportunity for growth and development rather than a roadblock.

What defines a good relationship with clients depends on your company or organizations’ values. Minerva Strategies has established principles that help us build relationships that work for us. While the relationships you want to foster for your organization may differ from ours, it’s worth the extra effort to ensure you’re doing everything you can to make them as rewarding as possible.

Any additional things you do to ensure your consultant-client relationships thrive? We’d love to hear them. Shoot us an email with your ideas!   

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.