Are we providing value?
There is so much that we can do for our clients. We provide a variety of services from strategic communication counsel and planning, media relations and crisis management to social media strategy and implementation, content creation and advertising/marketing counsel. And, which services we provide depends on the specific needs of the client. However, when we are contracted under a limited retainer, we must focus on the services that provide the most value. That value not only varies by client, but it can sometimes be challenging to figure out, and every once in a while, impossible to provide.
What Clients Want vs. What They Value
We’ve learned that sometimes what clients want and what they value are two different things. Some clients think they want us to take on their social media efforts when in the big scheme of things, social media doesn’t have an impact on the company’s sales or growth goals. It’s just something they feel like they “have to do,” so it actually provides little value to them. Our time could be better spent creating a strategic communication plan focused on increasing awareness of the company in targeted markets or with specific audiences.
We mostly learn about what the client values by listening and asking the right questions. A seemingly random comment in casual conversation can sometimes be the golden nugget that tells us more about the client’s vision than anything he or she actually says in a business meeting. Once we identify those “nuggets,” we can focus our efforts on producing results in those specific areas. That’s when we provide real value.
The Time Crunch
No matter how much you try to cram into a day, you will never have more than 24 hours. Similarly, in the world of retainer contracts, there is only so much we can accomplish within the agreed upon hours. And while Obsidian is known for sometimes giving more in order to get the job done in the best way possible, our team rosters are booked in a way that doesn’t allow for overage as a norm. Otherwise, other clients suffer and our team doesn’t sleep. So, we have to be focused on the best use of our time within each client retainer.
There may be 30 hours of work per month that can be done to meet the overall goals of the retainer, but if we are contracted for 10 hours, then we must focus on the most impactful one-third of that list each month. Like the new GEICO commercials say, “It’s what you do.”
When the Value Just Doesn’t Add Up
Sometimes, the value that the client is looking for just can’t be provided from our list of services. Often, this is the case for a client looking for an immediate uptick in sales or one who is itching to be in the news without a timely, newsworthy story to tell. We often say that PR is a marathon, not a sprint. So, if a business is failing due to rapidly declining sales and hires us as a “last-ditch effort” to turn sales around over 30 days, that owner most likely will not see value in our efforts. Increased awareness or a change in perceptions about a brand or its product can’t necessarily be done in the first month of the retainer. And, we know that changing perceptions about something – such as a product that used to be hot and for some reason or another is now not – takes time. So, given the appropriate amount of time to research perception, identify target audiences and craft impactful strategies and tactics, PR can certainly help “turn a company around” – it just most likely won’t happen in 30 days.
It can be so easy to get caught up in executing all of the things that need to be done on any one account because we know that all of it will make a difference to the client – especially when many of our tactics are things that weren’t being done at all before they hired us. However, we must question whether what we are doing is really providing the greatest value for our clients. If it’s not, then we may not even get the chance to see the fruits of our labor. When budgets get cut, those line items that don’t provide tangible value are the first to go. We always want to make sure that PR is something a company can’t let go of and is valued just as much as a great attorney or accountant.