07 November 2006

Our survey said…

The results of the sixth annual 2006 PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO Survey are in (funny…I can’t recall the previous five, but no matter) and you can probably hear the distant groaning of statistics being stretched to their limit. In fact, when the sub-heading of the press release is “New Survey Notes CEOs Frequently Revise Strategies In Light of Emerging Issues” you wonder why they don’t just call it the sixth annual “Go Figure” CEO Survey.

However, in light of our recent debate about the amount of time PR professionals spend meeting their clients’ ever more demanding reporting requirements, the headline finding is interesting; that the majority (62%) of CEOs “indicate that gut feelings are highly influential in guiding their business strategies, while only four in 10 cite internal metrics and financial information.”

So, the CEO is much more likely to read the paper, watch TV, browse the odd glossy, maybe do a bit of online and listen to customers to work out whether PR is delivering value for money. The impetus for reports and measurement doesn’t come from the top (but we knew that already, didn’t we?).

The survey also tells us that the top priorities for CEOs in terms of the outcomes of their actions (and presumably the actions of their employees and any companies they might employ to work on their behalf) are customer reactions, long-term financial performance and corporate reputation.

So it’s fairly safe to assume that CEOs would prefer their company’s money was spent doing things that had a positive impact on those priorities, rather than producing increasingly detailed reports to cover the arse and justify the job of some middle-ranking in-house PR manager.

We’re often told that the demand for more reporting comes from above; that “we need these reports to feed into management reports higher up the food chain.” Bollocks. Listen up: “THE CEO DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOUR CRAPPY LITTLE REPORTS!”

OK, so you might say that in helping secure the job of the in-house PR manager an agency is also helping secure its own role, but given the choice I reckon that most agency heads would rather take their chances in spending their time generating great results and being smart about making sure their work gets noticed in the boardroom (or on the golf course, at the rugby, in their club).

I remember a few years back PR Week ran an on-going campaign called Proof (I think) which aimed to ensure that every campaign had 10% of its budget devoted to measurement and evaluation of results. Surely we can lump reporting into campaign measurement and evaluation these days and, if so, wouldn’t it be a dream if you could ensure that only 10% of the fee was spent on those activities? It’d be far less than most spend on it at the moment. I suspect, however, that the PR Week campaign was focused on diverting 10% of your fee into third-party coverage evaluation services like Metrica…which only makes the time spent reporting even more of a squeeze on your margins.

Reporting demands are sucking the lifeblood from creative PR execs…I see it all the time. All those shiny new grads from last week’s PR Week walking into top agencies, dreaming of days filled with brainstorms, creative juices spilling over the desks, clients simply gagging for the next great idea…how long before the daily grind of admin drives them into other careers? Crikey, you might as well be making more money being as bored somewhere else, right?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The PR Week 'proof' campaign was an irrelevant pile of dung and only served to highlight how out of touch the paper was (and probably still is) with 'real world' PR, where most SME's simply cannot afford to divert 10% of their budget into something which does not deliver results.

Anonymous said...

The reporting issue is surely one that has been up for debate for a long time now, but seems to be featuring more since these reports. I think we all know that it takes up too much of our time that could be better spent elsewhere and we know that it is not likely to be an appealing feature to new execs coming into the industry. However, whilst we seem to be sending all kinds of reports to clients from updates on media sell ins, mid weekly reports to end of day reports to weekly reports, monthly reports and so on, surely there is a need for agencies to push back on some aspects of the reporting. Have we become an industry of doers and simply listen to what our clients want? I'm sure this is becoming more of the case for many agencies, but maybe it is the constant threat of so many other agencies out there that could take that business that we simply roll over....

Anonymous said...

>>you might say that in helping secure the job of the in-house PR manager an agency is also helping secure its own role<<

Given that the average marketing director/PR manager, etc at best lasts no more than 2 years with the same company, even that can be a pointless exercise - change of in-house client is the most common reason for the end of a relationship....

....the world's leading.... said...

Yes, agencies should push back on onerous demands...but you can only push back from some point of authority (and the authority is with the client..."I need this extra report", "Why?", "Because I do", "No you don't", "Yes I do", "No you don't", "I'm the client, yes I do", "Oh, OK").

I don't know, but does the PRCA Consultancy Management Standard define an approrpiate level of campaign reporting? Could agencies use this to define their standard reporting and therefore make it clear that anything above and beyond will cost the client and, therefore, inhibit the agency's ability to do proactive work?

Anonymous said...

Don't rely on the PRCA to define an appropriate level of bureaucracy for a campaign. Anyone who has been through CMS will know how some of its requirements require an insane amount, which in theory make sense but in practise are a colossal waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I do understand your point and it is obviously difficult at times to push back on the demands we are often faced with. At some stage though there needs to be an agreement on just what sort of time should be given to reporting and the other to proactive PR because sooner or later we won't have anything interesting to report on....

anonymous said...

Seems to me we are missing the point looking for trade associations to help on the admin burden. PR agencies are meant to be commercial organisations and need to be run as such. Explaining to clients and regularly reminding them that they buy a set amount of time and spending a lot of it on reporting does no help achieve objectives is the starting point.

Not giving away an additional 25% per month free, or as we delightfully call it over-servicing, is the next step.

This is the way to build long term successful commercial relationships and the authority to have sensible discussions with clients.