C-PR: Reviving A Stale Account

Posted: July 14, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Morning, Todd Defren posted a short piece on the major obstacle that comes with long term clients, namely, keeping it fresh. In this post, entitled Blow Up Your PR Program, Todd declares:

“Know what I hate?  “Maintenance Mode.”  That’s the feeling you sometimes get when you’ve been working with a client for 1 — 2 — 3+ years and the program is WORKING but seems to be on AUTOPILOT.”

The key here is information – the more you have to work with, the greater and grander the possibilities. Clients don’t always realize what information or goings-on can be spun into a great story and earn them great publicity. Routine calls should be the bare minimum of your interaction; daily contact with your point person, via phone or email, just to check in – crucial. Seeing your clients face-to-face, being in their office, watching them work, observing, and witnessing firsthand what they’re doing can be an amazing inspiration when it comes to identifying fresh ideas for long-term clientèle. So visit often. A Monthly Brainstorm can be great, but it’s tough to force inspiration. Close contact means continuously bouncing ideas off of one another, developing concepts, slowly but methodically…which can really help reinvigorate a robo-account, ‘when brainstorms’ just don’t do the trick anymore.

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Another way to keep things from getting stale and mundane is to keep a constant eye on the competition. Who are the other thought leaders in the industry, what are they doing and saying? With what brands does your client compete? That competition can often act as catalyst for the best ideas and most innovative campaigns and stunts, even years into a partnership between the client and agency. Stagnancy WILL happen, unless you preempt the process. Understanding the enemy is vital in war – and the business world is certainly no different. Make use of your “down time’  by learning everything you can about the competition and every move they make. You’d be surprised as to how many mistakes they’ve made on which you can capitalize, or how many good ideas they’ve had that you can improve upon.

Lastly, there’s niche news. As the Media Landscape forms, melts, and re-solidifies – Journalists are constantly looking to bring the niche news into the mainstream. Browsing online micro-communities and perusing smaller, interest or industry-based outlets, on a regular basis, can often provide fodder for an new round of ideas, especially if you can employ your client’s expertise or their brands unique aspects as a vehicle to make this niche news digestible by the public and in bringing it to mainstream outlets.

As Always…If you have any thoughts, please share. Do you disagree with these tactics? Do you have another Idea? A Proven Approach? Let us know!

And If you Enjoyed This Read – Please – Tweet It, Digg It, Stumble It…Even Facebook It! Thanks!

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Comments
  1. Keith Trivitt says:

    Thanks for adding some more depth to really what I think is one of the best topics a major PR thought leader (@TDefren) has brought up in a very long while. I love that you said “go into a client’s office.” I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a major advocate of actually interacting with clients, seeing where they work, how they work, what inspires them and how they get the job done so damn well. After all, how can we as PR practitioners become passionate about a client and their work if we don’t understand why THEY are passionate about their work. I know that when I fully come to understand a client’s passion for his or her work, I’m much better at expressing that passion to a journalist, community or consumers.

    Something I would add to this (though it takes away from the client angle of this post) is that even in today’s fractured media world, where many journalists cover a lot more beats than they ever did before, it’s still vitally important to actually have some physical interaction with them, along with the communities that a client wishes to reach. Personally, I like to get out and meet at least one journalist a week I have or will work with, and from that, I find it’s usually pretty easy to get a discussion going about a client and help the journalist develop a bit more of a deeper understanding of what my client does or is passionate about. Then again, that could just be because I have an outgoing personality, and would prefer to talk and meet someone in person, rather than over the phone or via e-mail.

  2. @mikeschaffer says:

    Great work, as always! I have a few tricks up my sleeve when an account needs freshening.

    1) Keep a co-worker in the loop – I try to make sure at least one other person in my company is somewhat up-to-speed on all of my accounts (and I reciprocate, of course). We can use our varying perspectives to help each other.

    2) Interns – I find interns to be a brilliant source of creative ideas. About 4 or 5 times a semester, I’ll pull interns–and just interns–into our conference room for a brainstorming session. They don’t know the history of the account, so they aren’t biased by the past and the personalities.

    3) Special Events/Promotions – A time-sensitive campaign can breathe some new life into an account. Whether it is a spring fling or a Turkey-themed Thanksgiving promotion, these are proven to work. I have used this internally. For a restaurant chain I’ve represented for 5 years, I created a “Dog Days of Summer PR Plan.” That messaging will not be part of the campaign, but it has helped me shape all ideas within.

    I see this as a “good” problem to have…when you are out of ideas because you’ve done everything you can think of. It is a tremendous challenge, as well, because it stretches creativity. And creativity is a huge part of PR.

  3. Definitely some things that I see agencies do. As I’m more on the corporate/association side now, I have the same client, 24/7.

    But some things to consider:

    1. Have daily Google Alerts for your competitors and see what they are up to.
    2. Have some form of contact with someone in your client’s office everyday – even if its just an update on what you are doing.
    3. Try new things – whether it be a new marketing material (maybe a success story?) or redesign the Web site. Also, try not to fall into the hole of having the lead say the same thing in every press release – XX, the leading provider of XX, has done THIS TODAY!!!! 🙂
    4. Work with a charity on a joint project.
    5. Keep in contact with journalists – go to coffee, email, etc. They might have a story idea and you want to have your client in the forefront of their mind always.

    • Melfi says:

      A lot of good thoughts here. I completely agree with Lauren’s 5th point above. Take a journalist out for lunch to get to know them better. If they don’t have the time, pick up the phone and see what stories are coming down their pipeline. Some of the best hits I have gotten for clients I’ve had for multiple years have come from just asking a journalist what he/she finds interesting right now and what he/she is planning out for the next month.

  4. I think it’s important, especially in cases when you have a long-term client and have been successfully working a program, to continually work to bring fresh ideas to that client. After all, the fresh ideas are usually what won you the account in the first place. Even if you’re not going to get paid to implement, it still shows the client that you’re thinking about his/her business and constantly looking for new ways to help that business build relationships, improve its share of discussion and earn market share.

  5. marketing veep says:

    It’s all quite simple, isn’t it? Two golden nuggets are in this post: STAY PRESENT with your client and become inseparable by serving as your client’s source for competitive intelligence. Staying present means being with your client in the throes of everyday business without being a disruption. That’s where the skill comes in. I’d love to see you write more on this topic. Specifically, how to (profitably) weave yourself into your client’s process without getting in their way.

  6. PR Cog says:

    These are fantastic tips and all true. The great majority of my accounts are long term accounts and there’s no avoiding maintenance mode. Doing something, anything, to shake it up can really help.

    One client insists are doing RFPs annually. We’ve had the client for close to a decade and they’re very happy with our work so we’re basically guaranteed the spot (I’m not entirely convinced they actually send out other requests or just make it an activity for us). When forced to reexamine the account and look at it as if it’s a new account we get new ideas, discover new, smaller markets they’re now serving but haven’t mentioned to us because of the ‘routine’ calls where we know what we’re going to discuss because we’ve been discussing it for months.

  7. Great post – good tips! This is something that I’ve been really trying to step up at our company. More interaction with clients, and more often. It’s amazing how some great ideas can come to be when you are just chatting more casually, rather than in a formal meeting.

    Like you said, the more information the better and I totally agree with this sentence: “Clients don’t always realize what information or goings-on can be spun into a great story and earn them great publicity.” Sometimes clients just can’t see a great opportunity right in front of them. And when you have more chances to talk about what’s going on, that’s when great ideas can come to life!

  8. Well done, i agree with Lauren F’s additions… gotta check up on competitors, gotta be close by if not ahead… even if by way of ‘lay of the land conversations’ with your client directly (yes, def should be done daily!)

    This is a great timely post as i sit here writing plans for clients whom are grandfathered in… hard to have non stale thought starters and ‘new directions’ that are not new keep rearing their heads in there. Chief Twitter Officer anyone? (*thanks David for the tweet that gave me this idea a few days back).

    AA

  9. CT says:

    Good tips. The journalist outreach seems to have hit a chord, and since I can speak from past experience on that side: Timing and context are everything. No matter how desperate an outlet might be to fill the news hole that hour/day/week/month, the item being pushed has to be relevant or it isn’t worth the time to look at. And reporters to keep a mental file, so it’s easy to remember if Company A (or Celebrity A, etc.) churns out nothing but routine product releases that aren’t even that noteworthy within their niche. @mikeschaffer above said that creativity is a huge part of doing PR, and that needs to be applied in order to get attention.

  10. That is a very on point article.

    I think two things are the most important though — knowing your audience and knowing your client, but understanding the shifts.

    So I guess that makes it three. Obviously there are more than that — as Laruen suggested Google Alerts and as Mike said, interns, for example.

    I def. agree with all of those.

    But I just think everything is so subjective in our career. I mean we can generalize, but it really is case by case.

    But also, I think interacting with clients is very important. if you can’t see them in the flesh, I think it IS okay too to email and talk on the phone, as long as the lines of communication remain open. 🙂

  11. FLAIR MEDIA says:

    I’m a big fan of exploring what’s happening in other industries, and then adapting appropriate ideas to fit a client’s current needs. I also think that staying immersed in your own creative pursuits, and reading, listening, and participating in a well-rounded life outside of the office helps bring fresh perspective to your work. You never know where those a-ha moments will spring from!

  12. Amanda Beals says:

    David,

    Dead on. If you do not exude excitement or verve in plain view of your client, you should be in another business. Your suggestions should not be a “nice to have” but mandatory in this economic climate and for that matter any economic climate. The notion of checking in with clients is wildy underrated. And, from my experience, checking in more rather than not (and that does not mean overkill) may engender more excitement from client and potentially dialogue that would augment or ameliorate a campaign at an impasse.

    The reality is that each day I see enumerable businesses pop up with ridiculously low fees to promote or work with brands because social media in some ways has been interpreted (and PR for that matter: Please see Bruno for twins at BIG PR COMPANY)as an easy job. Well, its not. But, service that exceeds expectation that is consistent, relevant and demonstrative will trump all others.

  13. Deirdre says:

    Really good post. Great tips and I think it’s especially important not to get complacent with a client especially around that 3 year mark as for many companies that’s a time for agency review. Also, one other tip is to get as much information as possible by involving other groups w/in the company. For example, we tend to get the sales managers or the business development team involved with the PR effort (in monthly meetings) because they provide a tremendous insight on the market and the customer. They also have great application stories that often aren’t shared with an internal communications team. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  14. Keith Trivitt says:

    Deidre’s comment about getting other members of a client’s internal team involved in the entire PR process is really important, IMHO. I’ve found from my own experience that business development folks are some of the best for providing great insight, applications and anecdotal stories that you can use to build new plans and campaigns, particularly once a client relationship begins to reach that point where you have blown through all of the obvious angles and you need to breathe some new life into the plan.

    @KeithTrivitt

  15. One of the things we do is brainstorm a client every other week for organic growth. We say to the client, “You were the topic of our brainstorm this week and we think XYZ.” It’s grown four of our accounts this year, alone. And it creates some serious loyalty.

  16. Aerocles says:

    Wow…Thanks For All The AMAZING Comments & Suggestions Everyone. Sorry I can’t respond individually! This is really a conversation that needs to happen more often. Clients will hop from agency to agency if you can’t plan for both the near and long term. The ‘recession’ has led many of us to put all our efforts into the – IMO – Overvalued “Immediate Results” Long Term Strategy is essential & this is directly related to “Keeping Things Fresh.” Understanding your clients goals, the short and long term, will allow you to develop a strategy that’s custom tailored to these ends and will help avert the dreaded Robo-Mode that can leave a client feeling under, or completely, unattended to…which is never a good thing.

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