What is Value? It Depends on Who You Ask

The word value might seem like a straight forward term but in
reality, it’s very subjective. Those of us in the PR agency business
can appreciate this as we balance multiple clients and work hard every
day to provide value to them – which can be, and often is, very
different from client to client. You  may experience this in your own
job if you’re a part of a larger division or company where multiple
decision makers need to see what you do every day as valuable. As you
look up the hierarchy, what constitutes as value can differ from layer
to layer, person to person. So how do you ensure that you are providing
the best value you can – and to the right people (the ones that
ultimately make the decision on your job, your future, your daily work
life)?

Even
when you do figure out what each person in the decision tree sees as
valuable, it can change. For example, often times PR agencies are
replaced when a new addition  – usually a VP or Director of Marketing -
is hired by a client. Alternately, you may get a new boss who has been
assigned to come in and “shake things up.” Although you may have met
all of the objectives of value for your previous contact, the new one
will hold you to their own standards of value and ROI. If someone’s
been assigned to come in and do more than fill some shoes – but rather,
make change and find problems – they will be looking very carefully at
everything you do. And while a more experienced person wouldn’t make
sweeping changes without first truly understanding what needed to be
fixed – and wouldn’t make changes just for the sake of making changes -
often times no matter how hard you’ve worked or how many goals you
previously met, they just won’t meet the new boss’s expectations of
value and your job will change (or, worst case scenario, be eliminated).

So what can you do to ensure you are always adding value to the
myriad of decision makers in your work life? First – and most obvious -
is to communicate. Sit down with each person who is responsible for
providing input or making decisions about your job (or firm) and ask
them, “How do you define value?” and “What can I do to be more valuable
to you on a daily basis.?” More importantly, be ready to express some
of your own ideas on how you have provided value in the past – tie it
to specific ROI such as sales, customer retention or effective company
policies. Secondly, don’t stop asking. Do this often and repeat. Change
happens in the corporate world at a rapid pace (or sometimes, a snail’s
pace… which can mean you’re thinking and acting before your company
or client is ready) and you need to have your pulse on the pace. Tie
your performance to previous discussions and outlines of value provided
to you by your former client contact or boss – and ensure that they
clearly correlate “This is what I was told was valuable and needed;
here’s how I achieved it.” Next, ask questions – “If this value is no
longer important, what is? What changes are you making and why – I want
to understand so I can also make the appropriate changes and continue
to deliver the right value to this organization.”

The bottom line – don’t assume you know what’s valuable in the minds
of all decision makers. It takes constant communication, consistent
measurement of your own performance (don’t just rely on others to do
this for you) and a certain tact for tooting your own horn to ensure
that your value is clear to all decision makers. Don’t leave it up to
others to communicate how valuable you are – and don’t ever look at it
as a job that’s complete.

How do you ensure that  you understand the value expected of your
agency or your position, and how do you juggle the expectations of
multiple audiences?

 

Action vs Talking – How do you DO it?

I’ve had that well-known Nike slogan running through my mind lately, “Just Do It.” It’s a catchy slogan that’s easy to remember, and reminds me a lot of our vision for 2010 at PerkettPR – don’t just talk about it, do it. This year, we’re focused on action and moving forward (after 2009, who isn’t?!) – how about you?

There are a lot of advantages to big business but one thing that stands out for me when meeting with a lot of larger companies is how many layers of talking there are to get to action. I enjoy working with both large and small companies, but one reason start ups and small businesses (SMBs) are so intriguing to me is that they are so very action-oriented. A lot of times big businesses add too many layers and before they realize it, the layers are covering so many non-doers that not much gets done. (Say that 10 times fast). People get caught up in theory and planning, hide behind layers of hierarchy and have a difficult time turning board room planning into real world action.

How do you ensure that your staff goes from planning and talking to action and doing? Do you allow new ideas to be tried and tested or do you stay on path with only tried and true methodologies? In 2010, as we move beyond one of the toughest years in business, encourage your team to “just do it” by opening up your mind to new possibilities. Here are a few ideas.

- Hand over the Reins. Often, less-senior staff get frustrated in business when they feel they don’t have a seat at the table. Senior management often doesn’t give them a seat at the table becaues they dont have the time to “deal with it.” During your next team meeting, hand over the reins to a junior staffer – let them set the agenda and run the meeting and see what new ideas abound. You’ll be surprised how people step up to the plate when given the chance.

- Speaking of stepping up, Try Letting Go. One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen managers face is letting go and delegating. A good manager keeps a team coordinated and on task. A great manager also  delegates and gives staff members the benefit of the doubt.

- Don’t forget to Empower Your Staff. Delegation without direction can be like falling overboard with no swimming lessons. You have to teach, too. Often it takes more time and effort than just doing the task yourself, and that’s why so many managers fail at delegation and empowerment. Do the work it takes to give your staff what they need to be successful.

- Track Results. Don’t forget to go back over those meeting notes and track movement. Check up on both the silent types and the big talkers – they are often the ones hiding behind a lot of tasks and To Do lists. The value is in looking back to see not only what planning was turned into action, but what action yielded results.

- Try Something New. If the finance industry was any indication over the last couple of years, following the pack isn’t always the best idea. Take one or two really innovative ideas and test them this year. You’ll be surprised how, even if they don’t work, they inspire your staff to keep thinking beyond the usual and help make your company a true leader.

What ideas do you have to share to encourage others to Just Do It in 2010?

Can You Afford Not to Demand Excellence?

I recently had a conversation with an industry colleague who works on the client side. During that conversation, which took place at a marketing conference, he shared with me his experience at a certain other interactive conference last year: “One awesome week-long party paid for by my company. No real business takes place in terms of ROI. I can’t wait to go back.”

burning-wasting-money-600Huh? With that mentality, no wonder marketing is often the first line item when companies are facing budget cuts.

But wait a minute – aren’t you responsible for ensuring excellence for your company across the board at all times? In this day and age of record unemployment, pay cuts, “turning out the lights,” and more work with less resources, can you afford this sort of mentality on your workforce? Do you have any idea what the marketing department does with its budget? Are you assessing and measuring and demanding excellence on a weekly basis?

More importantly, if you have a marketing department spending money on events, travel, conferences and tradeshows, are you really measuring the ROI of such efforts? Do you assess the cost of the show (in full) and what it yielded for results? Do you pay attention to who’s going, what they’re doing and the expected results? Do you compare these investments to other marketing activities? Can you afford not to have such checks and balances in place these days?

Mind you, this was no multi-billion dollar company – although even they, too, are being affected by this global recession. This was a start up in a precarious and competitive industry. In other words, that kind of irresponsible mentality (like #11 here) shouldn’t be difficult to spot. But if you’re not paying attention – and not demanding results from every investment – then it could be missed. And such ignorance could cost you not only money, but perhaps a future layoff or worse.

Take the time to assess all of your  marketing activities – not just SEO or PR or advertising – but the dollars spent on every activity online and off. Demand excellence in everything and set parameters for employees. Prioritize in advance – know which activities yield the best results and which could easily be diminished with minimal impact.

Can you draw a direct line to results or positive ROI for each  marketing activity? If not, can you afford not to demand excellence and results across the board? I didn’t think so.

Are You Invaluable?

Yesterday’s Boston Globe reported that the jobless plight continues: “5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months, a record number that forecasts a slow, difficult recovery and a long period of high unemployment, according to Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.”

If you are fortunate enough to have a job or a healthy customer list, are you making yourself invaluable to your employer? To your customers? Are you striving to do everything possible to move prospects from viewing your company or products as a “nice to have” to a “must have”? Are you doing everything possible to ensure your name never appears on the “short list” when management has to think about cost cutting? If not, why not?

Even if you believe that you are in a comfortable place with your job or customers, you should be striving to do everything possible to be seen as invaluable. Invaluable means it would hurt to lose you and – as much as one can be -  that you are irreplaceable. As an employee, you should especially drive to be irreplaceable because with the job market as it is, there are plenty of available workers who will line up to fill your shoes should they become vacant.

A few esy ways to become invaluable:

  • Don’t do what’s asked. Do more without having to be asked.
  • Go beyond the obvious. Attending a networking event? Reading a book? Joining a webinar? How can you bring lessons, leads or other value back to your organization or to your clients?
  • Pay attention to the competition (even if it’s not “your” job). Whether it’s another vendor or an industry colleague, know what they’re doing. Then strive to do more, better. Make suggestions to management to keep the entire company ahead of the curve.
  • Be visible. Visit your clients, ask your boss to lunch, send one new idea a day to your managers.
  • Don’t miss a brainstorm. In fact, suggest them yourself. And speak up during every single one. (Meetings, too!)
  • Be selfless. While it’s hard to think of others during a time when “personal branding” is all the rage, don’t forget about your existing employer or customers. Be sure that your efforts can be seen as mutually beneficial – to both you and your organization (or clients/customers).
  • Forget about your job description. Or at least don’t stay within its boundaries. Offer to take on new projects, grab assignments normally reserved for others when you see staff shortages, etc.
  • Improve, innovate, inspire. The recession can be tough on everyone – including your boss. While it can be hard to stay positive and upbeat, doing so will help you to stand out as a leader. A negative, controversial attitude will only make the situation worse – and it will be remembered. But working hard to improve everything you do, innovate in the way you do things, and inspiring others to do better will help you to be invaluable now – and well into the future.

What’s your advice for becoming invaluable?

Pssst, We’re Recruiting, Spread the Word

I’m happy to say that we’re on the hunt for some new, innovative employees. I wanted to spread the word as much as possible, so in addition to updating our careers page on the web site, I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging to share the following details. Thanks in advance for passing it along.

Are you a PR 2.0 expert with proven experience in both traditional programs and new media? PerkettPR is recruiting!

PerkettPR is seeking Account Strategists who can demonstrate the proven ability to run traditional PR programs such as media relations, customer/partner programs, speaking engagements, events initiatives and grassroots campaigns, as well as new media and digital production: social media campaigns, video, podcasts, etc.

Specifically, you must:

  • have a minimum of five years related experience
  • demonstrate results or case studies in PR and new media as well as client service
  • be comfortable – experience preferred – working from a home office
  • have experience in technology but demonstrate a willingness to work in industries such as healthcare, fashion, travel, entertainment. If you have specific experience to bring to the table, please highlight it
  • have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • show us why you are a standout – what will you teach us?
  • do your homework – communicate your understanding of who we are, our culture and how we are unique in the industry

Ideally, you will:

  • have a sense of humor – for fun and for sanity!
  • be in or near Boston, NYC, San Francisco or Detroit
  • not lead with “why I want to work from home”
  • have PR agency experience or client service experience
  • be creative in how and where you apply/show us your work
  • understand the bigger picture and give us an idea of how you will not only help deliver the best client service but help our organization grow and innovate

BIG HINT: if you follow @PerkettPR on Twitter and DM us that you have sent a resume, it will be more noticeable…

Submit your details to careers(at)perkettpr(dot)com and in the subject line, please indicate the position (Account Strategist) and location, (Boston, NY, Detroit or San Francisco). Visit our website for more details. Thanks for reading.