Posted by Tom Gable
As reported here previously, a PRSA Counselors Academy survey identified the key issues facing the PR agencies and internal staffs in the ongoing transition of the PR professional from vendor to trusted counselor. The top line action items: demonstrating return on investment (ROI), providing authentic counsel, embracing social media, improving technology and finding new ways of measurement.
My segment during a panel discussion of the findings at the PRSA International provided ideas on enhancing client service. As covered earlier, Gable PR and many others recommend getting off to a fast start by using internal and external audits. They are a cost-effective and quick means of gathering the intelligence required to create strategic long-term programs.
With research in place, agencies and internal PR staffs can start planning to build future image from a strong foundation and based on a bright, strategic vision. As an analogy, think about creating a beautiful new high-rise office building, cathedral, synagogue, museum, football stadium or other major architectural undertaking. What do you want the finished product to look like – the final rendering? Then, what are the essential elements needed to bring the vision to life?
Steel-Solid Facts, No Hype
In PR, branding and positioning, the foundation must be legitimate, ethical, credible, authentic and steel-solid with facts. From there, image builds on three to four core values. Then, every piece of communications provides additional support for each core value, building a row at a time to create a future award-wining edifice. Add a row or two of hype? And the walls will come crumbling down.
How to organize the PR efforts necessary to create new images and reputations? We call it Horizon Management, a concept that assumes you can plan for and achieve the desired results. Then, once the desired position is reached, positive communications must continue to perpetuity. Markets change. Competitors come and go. New communications tools are created and channels opened. So aim for the horizon – and keep moving the horizon!
The pro-active PR professional routinely looks a year or more ahead for new opportunities and provides the leadership that keeps relationships and results growing over time. Go beyond the ordinary and expected. Fresh ideas keep clients and bosses engaged and enthusiastic. The approach also builds trust and respect. Even if there is disagreement, clients know the professional is focused on their future success, not personal agendas. As a result, the PR professional is transformed from vendor or staff person to trusted counselor and strategic partner, building relationships that endure and prosper.
Here are a couple of quick tips for launching horizon management.
Conduct an Environmental and Situation Analysis
- Annual plans, milestones, events, conferences, quarterly reports, audit info, other “knowns”
Get Creative with the “Flip Side”
- What exists? What doesn’t?
- Where are the holes?
- What new ideas can we bring to the table?
Take Your Plan Over the Horizon
- Propose bigger ideas, new programs, and added value
- Have short-term action items for daily engagement
- Set a vision for the future (changing image, behavior)
- Brainstorm regularly, provide continuous creativity
- Update monthly and keep moving the horizon
- Manage for results, not time
- Understand client rhythms, synchronize
- Set new standards for responsiveness
Monthly Litmus Test on Program Success
Examine recent client experiences, relationships, evolution, momentum, stagnation and any confusion or misdirection:
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- What (or who) changed?
- What was missing?
- What steps do we need to take to generate clearly superior results?
Detailed Check List for Client Success
- Understand the client business, plans, and goals
- Match expertise to client needs
- Do your homework
- Set realistic expectations
- Build a team – internally and with the client
- Develop long-range plans, critical steps
- Establish procedures, protocols for planning, ongoing creative, approvals, measurement
- Be strategic and authentic
- Use appropriate tools and tactics
- Communicate consistently and creatively!
- Keep moving the horizon
- And celebrate as you build relationships that endure to perpetuity
Obviously, these are bullet points that require a lot more thought for each and could be turned into a chapter in a book (They are! The Fifth Edition of the PR Client Service Manual is advancing toward release in Spring 2010). For a free PDF of the Fourth Edition, circa 2001, email me at email@example.com.