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After popping bottles of champagne or sparkling juice to ring in the New Year with zeal, many of us will commit to resolutions that we likely won’t keep. I’m certainly guilty of this, and I’m willing to bet that many who read this are as well.
This year, instead of making resolutions I don’t intend to keep, I am trying something new—focusing on mistakes. I made some big mistakes in 2014, but I’m taking the lessons I learned with me into 2015, and I hope you can do the same. I also invite you to share your own personal wisdom in the comments section below.
Early in 2014, after working in-house public relations for many years, I decided to make the switch to agency life, but I didn’t fully understand how to evaluate what makes for a good agency partnership.
Many agencies are stuck in traditional models falling victim to common pitfalls such as, being slaves to billable hours, not having a strategic plan for business growth, or offering “integrated” services that are internally siloed.
In search of personal growth, I reached out to industry contacts and was referred to an agency that is delivering client service, and fostering professional development completely differently – PR 20/20. In fact, the CEO, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer), had even outlined all of the above-mentioned agency traps in Chapter 5 of his book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint. From that discovery, I learned how to better evaluate a career move, and was lucky enough to join the team.
As Roetzer writes, “We are on the cusp of a truly transformational period in the marketing-services industry. The old-guard, rooted in tradition and resistant to change, will fall and new leaders will emerge. The industry will be redefined by marketing agencies that are more nimble, tech savvy, open, and collaborative.”
Last year was the first time I felt the effect of the shrinking media landscape on the public relations industry, and placements were more difficult to secure.
There were fewer reporters to contact, and many industry outlets would only publish news releases distributed by wire services, which made it difficult to secure coverage for clients who were unwilling to make room in their budgets.
When faced with client pressure, and unresponsive media, the mistake I made was trying to explain to clients why earning placements was increasingly difficult.
This exercise taught me that a problem is only a problem if you present it that way. My conversations with clients changed from apologizing for not being able to place particular articles or releases, to suggesting that the content be used in other marketing efforts like native advertising, social media and blogging.
Last year, while working in Virginia, I discovered that the pace of business is a little different down south. In many cases, things move at a slower pace and requests are not always responded to in a timely manner.
As a hard charging Yankee, and former news producer, I’ve been programmed to communicate concisely. I realized that my aggressiveness in wanting to achieve results for clients, and to-the-point writing style, could come across as rude in digital communications. (A recent Comedy Central Key & Peele skit illustrates just how easy it is for text-based messages to get lost in translation.)
After my realization, I discovered that using the phone as a primary means of communication yielded much better results for particular clients.
Many public relations and marketing pros, including myself, make the mistake of letting work consume their lives. Always checking and responding instantly to email, monitoring and posting on social media, and working an unhealthy amount of hours due to client demand.
While it’s important to stay in-touch and provide clients with quality service and attention, it shouldn’t interfere with living your life. This is a lesson I learned my first day at PR 20/20.
We set our email to only update in 30- or 60-minute intervals, try not to respond during productivity blocks, and set clear expectations for clients so they understand the value these protections provide both parties. If you’re constantly answering client emails, when will you have the time you need to work toward their goals?
So what mistakes did you make in 2014, and how will you apply the lessons learned to 2015?
Image Source: Andrea Parrish - Geyer