10 Things I’ve Learned from Steve Jobs

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard the news that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple yesterday. I’ll leave the detailed reporting to the journalists, but as a fan girl of Mr. Jobs and the products developed while under his reign, I thought it would be fun to share 10 things I have learned from following his career so far:

  1. Innovate, innovate, innovate – but only if it’s useful
  2. Stay hungry – don’t give up
  3. Listen to yourself – trust your gut
  4. Thing big, talk big
  5. Stick with what works – like a nice OS
  6. Be cool – be colorful
  7. Say what you think. (Wired gathered some of the greatest Jobs’ quotes.)
  8. Don’t settle – say no if it’s not right
  9. Keep going – as long as you can, but be honest with yourself and others when it’s over
  10. Go out on top – but stick around to see what happens, if you can

“The end of an extraordinary era,” indeed. (As Walt Mossberg reports on Jobs’s legacy of “Changing How we Live,” in the Wall Street Journal.)

What’s Wrong With Your PR?

Do you know the answer to this before you start researching a new PR firm to hire? Have you taken a good look at your current program and working relationship and truly understand what needs to improve? Do you have a plan for integrating PR with other marketing elements?

In meetings with prospects I’ve found that many don’t. They don’t know what’s wrong with their PR, only that they “need something more.” They don’t have a plan for integrating PR with other forms of marketing – in fact, many times they’ve never even thought about the connection. But all marketing should be integrated and PR should support and work to promote every other element in your marketing arsenal.

If you head into a working relationship without a firm idea of what you want improved, it’s difficult to expect your PR firm to deliver results that will meet your – or the Board’s – expectations. Many times the C-suite has a very narrow view of what PR means to them – usually top of mind is media relations, although these days word-of-mouth is also becoming a unit of measurement for them, thanks to social media.

Every agency has been in a new business meeting where the prospect has brought out a list of what the last agency didn’t do. They don’t necessarily correlate this to what they thought the agency should have done – and I’ve found that rarely, if ever, do they have a clear and definitive overview on where the agency fell short in regards to specific metrics or promised goals.

Before you change agencies or look for a new firm for the first time, ask yourself:

– How do I define PR?

– What specifically has been missing that’s driving us to hire a PR firm?

– How do I expect PR to integrate into my overall marketing plan? What about sales? Customer service? Other areas of our business?

– What specific programs do I want in my PR campaign?

– How will I measure the success of those programs; of the campaign overall?

– How much do I expect the PR firm to manage and do my resources align with this expectation – honestly?

– What benchmark metrics do I have to give the PR firm to begin – so they can plan and measure accordingly?

– What characteristics do I want in my PR team? What do I like about the people I work with now?

– What attributes do I want in a PR firm? Big name? All senior team? Boutique or conglomerate? What’s my experience been in the past with each and what were the pros and cons?

– What have my trusted colleagues experienced – good and bad – in working with a PR firm and how can I avoid those same mistakes?

– What role do I want to play in managing the PR firm? Side-by-side colleague and teammate? Hands off manager?

– What matters most to me? What matters most to my boss(es)? Are we on the same page with how we’ll define success in working with a PR firm?

Many times this last point is one of the biggest snags in a successful agency/client relationship. Too many times the day-to-day executive tasked with managing the PR firm does not clearly understand how the CMO, VP of Marketing or other C-level executives will define success. And when they’re not on the same page, it’s pretty impossible for the PR firm to be successful. And that brings me to one final point – who’s in charge of your PR internally? Do you respect them? Do you trust them? Did you hire the right person for the job? Start there – because if you haven’t, you’re not only wasting money on their salary, but you’ll be throwing dollars out the window for a PR firm to fail, too.

So, what’s wrong with your PR? And how do you plan to fix it – or how have you in the past? Please share your experiences in the comments so our readers can benefit from your wisdom.

When to fire a client

In a recent new business meeting, the prospect asked us if we’ve ever ended a relationship with a client by our own choice. While this may be a bit of a taboo subject – why in the world would an agency fire a client – the fact of the matter is that good agencies recognize when a relationship isn’t right on their end as well, and take steps to correct it. When those steps don’t work, sometimes breaking up is the only thing to do. So what are the reasons one might choose to end a client relationship and give up potential revenue? I’ve listed a few below. Remember – especially if you’re the boss – protecting your reputation, your staff and your ethics are priceless.

  1. Unrealistic expectations. You’ve heard this time and time again. Yes, clients have every right to be demanding and to push for the best possible results. But when the CEO insists that not only should he be on the cover of Fortune Magazine, but his wife (who works in a completely separate company) should be with him as well (profile of a “super couple”), let the red flags fly. One might even think this CEO is joking but alas, when he is not – and six months later when he berates your team for “not knowing the right people,” (even though you’ve secured coverage for his company in USA Today, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal and more), because he is still not profiled on the cover of Fortune with his lovely wife, it’s time to consider that pleasing this client may never happen. Sometimes you have to know when to stand up from the game and walk away.
  2. Abuse of your staff. This may sound dramatic, but it’s not uncommon. When a client contact treats your staff in a way that you would never tolerate internally, you have to address the situation and demand respect for your people. No one should ever have to tolerate verbal abuse, sexual harassment or demeaning situations – and it’s up to you as a leader to ensure their safety and comfort. If a client consistently crosses the line, it’s time for you to cut the cord. Like a parent, encourage your staff to open up and tell you whenever an uncomfortable situation arises. They need to know when it’s okay to push back – and that you would never expect them to tolerate inappropriate behavior.
  3. Sudden change in metrics – without the accompanying change in resources. Any good PR agency is flexible and smart enough to alter strategies when a client’s company goals change. But when a client insists on adding five new programs and increasing metrics two-fold, with no additional resources (read: budget) provided, you have to reassess the situation. Often, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, and sometimes clients take that approach in requsting additional work under the same budget. While to some degree this can be tolerated, when significant changes are made and the expectations for your team to crank out results are not given the proper support, you have to assess whether or not the relationship is still returning value to your agency. Sometimes accounts simply become non-profitable. No one can run a successful business giving away free work. Talk to your client and explain that additional resources are required, or changes to the existing program need to be made in order to meet their new metrics. Most times, clients will understand and you can find a mutually-beneficial resolution. But if you can’t, be prepared to walk away and allocate that team to a more profitable prospect.
  4. Consistently late payments – or lack thereof. Every now and then a client has a reason that a payment arrives late – and the respectful ones will tell you about this glitch before you have to ask. But if you have a client who continually forgets to pay their invoices, or worse, hasn’t paid in over 30 days, you need to change course. Times are tough for every business, but just because you’re in client service doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate non-payment. If a client can’t keep their commitments to you, you should evaluate if this is a “healthy” relationship for your agency – and the future of your business.

Ultimately, although we are in the client service business, it’s important to remember that it’s a client relationship. And the best relationships must involve mutual respect and admiration. It’s up to you to ensure those elements exist on both sides of the coin – so don’t be afraid to speak up when something’s not working, and to walk away if it seems beyond repair.

Have you ever fired a client? Why or why not?

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?