4.6% of time spent analysing time breakdowns….
We’ve been alerted to a surprisingly interesting feature in PR Week (not that you can see it without a subscription) by The New View From Object Towers from the very lovely Andrew B Smith of Object Marketing.
Robert Gray’s colourful article (see what we did there?) looks at how a ‘typical’ 50 person PR agency spends its time. The great and the good happily gave their view of the findings.
As usual some comments were a tad self-serving (Kate Pooley of Lewis blathering about a pilot scheme that uses podcasts to report results in order to save time) and some were a little more honest, such as Mark ‘Firefly’ Mellor and his classic “existing clients come first in theory, but this can be tested to the limits if a couple of interviews clash with a new business pitch worth £100,000.”
The big news, of course, was the shocking revelation that a projected 45% of time went on account management with a further 18% on reporting. Almost two-thirds of time on managing expectations and egos. Media relations rolled in at 12% followed by a bunch of other stuff leaving only 1% of time dedicated to features tracking (that’ll be the AE then).
Is it all really that shocking? To the hand-wringers that get all academic about it, probably. Yet it is the hand-wringers that caused all this in the first place. Back in the day, it was “come up with a good story, sell the idea into your journo mates and we’ll all get to the pub on time.”
Then the shiny suit brigade decides that PR should be a chartered profession, and we must plan, measure, evaluate, plan, measure, evaluate our way into a sterile accountancy environment.
Account management – the endless status calls, the booking of taxis for a senior executive that can’t hail his or her own cab, the whimsical ‘strategic’ chat that wonders off into the PR manager bemoaning the attitude of their employer – and reporting go hand-in-hand.
The weekly, monthly, quarterly, bi-annual and annual reports and reviews add up. The strategic bigwigs that dreamt this crap up don’t, of course, actually do the reporting so the AMs and AEs have to do it leaving precious little time to do ‘traditional’ PR.
Clients start to go crazy when reports are late, or if a cutting isn’t straight. Due at a fixed point, these things are above the parapet waiting to be shot at. An unscheduled piece of coverage that, as it turns out, never did appear, doesn’t get missed. So what do you focus on?
Reporting is a drug. They like the report. But they want a bigger hit. Can you do a coverage board…Can you create a montage of coverage in PowerPoint….Just the best quotes, and make sure it looks pretty….With each piece coming in on a separate click…. Yes do scan the coverage in because we still don’t get our cuttings electronically….
The professionalisation of PR means the product is now the presentation of results rather than the results themselves. How often has a client lamented that “we didn’t sell that coverage back into the organisation (his/her boss) sufficiently.”
And besides, how long does it take to ring a couple of journalists and create some sort of a story with them? That’s the easy bit. Trouble is, it's too easy. Competing on that basis means ever-declining margin. That’s why agencies these days win and lose according to how they manage clients and package the ever-declining results they get.
On a positive note, cracking piece of coverage for TimeAct Solutions. Bet its agency spends less than 45% of its time on account management….