Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Outputs And Outcomes

In his book Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations, John Bryson talks about the importance of measuring outputs (how well you executed your strategy) and outcomes (the results your strategy achieved). Without measuring both, you'll never really know whether poor results were a product of the wrong strategy or just poor execution of that strategy.

With new business presentations, outputs and outcomes are important as well, but with a bit of a twist. I've coached myriad presentation teams who've stated, "these are the three concepts we want to communicate during our presentation," and they'll proceed to list them (output). After hearing that, I'll ask them to describe the three conclusions they'd like their prospective client to reach at the end of the presentation (outcome). Is there a difference you ask? Almost always.

The desired conclusions never quite match the key message points. In large part it's because we all tend to develop key message points in terms of competence, but we think of prospect conclusions in terms that cover competence and relationship issues. Per my last post, it's not just about who's better; it's about who's better to work with. Understanding the distinction and reframing your presentation in terms of both outputs and outcomes can mean the difference between winning and losing. An important distinction in this economy.

In my next post, I'll look at specific techniques for achieving the outcomes you want.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Better Or Better To Work With?

When it comes to pitching new business, many agencies (large and small) employ the approach, "our agency is better (more qualified) than your agency" as the prevailing means to win a prospect's account. Over the next few posts, I'll cover why employing a more client service-centric mindset to pitching new business will glean better results. And more importantly, how to do so.

By the time you get to the final presentation, you may be one of three agencies vying to win the business. At this stage of the game, assume ALL the agencies are qualified - that's why you're in the finals. The central question isn't really about choosing who's better, it's about choosing which agency will be better to work with. By being attuned to the dynamics of the relationship versus just your qualifications and ideas, you will improve your new business batting average.

In this economy, fewer opportunities to pitch means you have to win more often. I look forward to our conversation about doing just that!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

Funny how this bit of advice is relevant to just about everything. The difference in PR is you have to keep your eye on the same ball your client is watching. Putting all your focus on PR outcomes isn't going to be sufficient in most cases. For example, if your PR program is ultimately aimed at driving store traffic and increasing sales, and you're fixated exclusively on media coverage, you may not keep your client for very long.

Let your client know you care about the same things (s)he cares about. This is how you'll be regarded as a business partner versus just a publicity person. The more you stay in touch with your client's business needs, the more value you'll bring to your client and the more your client will value you. If this practice sounds obvious, that's great, but you'd be surprised at how rare it is.

Consider what happens during the lean times: Companies are quick to cut PR budgets or dismiss their firms altogether, when it should be the time they need and value us most. They don't feel this way because we do such a horrible job of demonstrating our overall value to their enterprise. Unless clients believe their business will be better off WITH our help than WITHOUT it, then you and your firm will always be held hostage by the whims of the marketplace. Now you can make the argument that nothing you do will ever change that dynamic. OR you could regard it much more in terms of Pascal’s wager that “the infinite expected value of believing is always greater than the expected value of not believing.” In other words, what have you got to lose by demonstrating a focus on your client's business and raising your client service game?

As students entering the PR profession, begin your careers with an orientation and an interest in your clients that is greater than just PR results. Do so successfully, and you'll take a giant step toward improving the overall perception of what we do.

This is the seventh and final supplemental post to the series I began just after the first of the year. Thanks to Kelli Matthews and her class at the University of Oregon. Best wishes to you all and Go Ducks!


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