At the outset of a relationship, our most important task is to clearly understand what the client wants to achieve,the most critical goals or objectives. Coupled with that is grasping the full set of strategic and executional factors impacting success – both the requirements that will enable success and the challenges that may limit it.
Once we understand what success means for the client, in the most comprehensive terms, we can determine how our services and counsel can most effectively achieve the defined goal. Often that means enhancing the ability of the client to leverage on core competitive strengths already resident in the organization, but perhaps not deployed through communications.
At all times, we are looking to be both a flexible business partner and to build a long-term relationship. The former means adapting our strategies, programs, and, if need be, budgets, to the client’s specific needs, means, and circumstances. The latter means achieving the desired results and delivering excellence in client service. Again, what matters most to us is forging a long-term business partnership. Both sides benefit significantly from that.
Fundamental to our strategic planning process is to clearly understand the organization’s corporate, business and financial goals, strategies, plans and initiatives. Our strategic thinking is all geared to enabling our clients to achieve those goals, and to integrate communications solutions into the core strategies, plans and initiatives.
Research is also a key piece to our planning and that can take many forms. Primarily, we seek to anchor our research in data that can be used to measure the benefits of our work. Often this includes perception studies to baseline constituent views and opinions which can then be reassessed at a future date. We also deploy measurement systems (see Performance Measurement) at the planning stage which vary in scope and complexity.
At the end of the research phase we generate a formal Strategy & Plan which drives the program. A centerpiece of our on-going strategy formulation is conducting off-site sessions with management teams to unpack and refine corporate, business and financial strategies and thus more clearly align them with communications. Quarterly “strategic resets” are recommended.
Also included in our planning documents is a compellingly defined positioning statement and a detailed “Message Bible”. Tactics are then typically phased to show a progression through the strategy and a calendar shows tactical deployment.
We adapt the structure of our account work to the clients needs. Typically, this falls into three categories:
Fixed Retainers: With a clearly define scope of work the fixed, monthly retainer is often the simplest and most economical account structure, especially in our Marketing Communications, Financial Communications & IR work. These are also well suited for long-term duration work.
Engagement: This work is shorter in duration – from a few weeks to a few months – and defined by urgent and immediate needs such as issues and crisis management. Our account teams charge hourly for this work.
Projects: Neither long term in nature nor driven by a crisis, our projects typically last three to six months for which we charge either hourly or for a fixed fee. A thought leadership program focused on White Papers and executive speaking or the development of a corporate brochure are typical examples.
To achieve measurable goals, we first work with our clients to define core business objectives. That enables us to understand the role of our services in achieving those objectives – and helps contend with gating factors and challenges. We then define the communications goals that align with our clients’ core objectives and interests.
We follow the Institute of Public Relations’ Barcelona Principles of Measurement to guide us in the process of goal-setting and subsequent measurement of the success of our strategies and plans. More information about these principles and how they are applied can be found at the Institute of Public Relations.
Reporting on our strategies and plans is a critical component in achieving success for our clients. We report first on the results against the metrics defined through the Barcelona Principles. Also, on a monthly basis are detailed daily task summaries. We also recommend a “strategic reset” with our clients on a quarterly basis in order to reevaluate the agreed upon approach, metrics, and budget, and to determine what adjustments need to be made.
We have a simple philosophy when it comes to client service – always do what’s in the best interests of the client, do it at the best of your ability, and do it with integrity. We’re in the business, then, of saying “yes that can be done” even within the constraints of defined limitations.
Central to our model for client service is a corporate culture that emphasizes focusing on achieving excellence in the work through teamwork and collaboration. We maintain a “flat” organizational structure with only four levels of titles – Associate, Senior Associate, Director and Partner – and organize teams around accounts to elicit collaborative focus.