I love a juicy analogy. Prior to becoming a business consultant and having worked in diverse industries such as aerospace and apparel, I have found analogies to be useful management tools to illustrate relationships and concepts within organizations. Depending on the audience, whether it consists of rocket scientists or retail merchandisers, analogies became a way for me to connect stakeholders in support of a singular, companywide vision.
For now, Iʻll use an ice hockey analogy—edge control—in order to illustrate three tips that model PR firms do to maintain their edge. (At Gould+Partners, we use the term “model firms” to refer to the subset of agencies—or those with 20-plus percent profitability—we regularly track and analyze.)
Mastering skate edges helps hockey players with balance, control and smoother strides. Skates have an inside edge and an outside edge; they are used differently, depending on whether the player wants to accelerate, turn, glide or stop on a dime.
Similarly, PR firm owners can use their edges to maintain profitability and navigate the twists and turns of an ever-changing market. Here’s how.
1. Reassess Regularly. Tracking progress against written plans is the backbone of a firmʻs success. Itʻs akin to a hockey player training to improve agility, balance, and speed. The following strategic planning analysis and measurement exercises are a regular part of the operational cycle of firms that maintain their edge:
> Competitive Advantages: Identifying specific abilities to outperform other firms
> Situational Analysis: Assessing the agency team and clients
> Environmental Scan: Identifying external forces that shape a company, industry and economy
> S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis and Matrix: Charting the internal and external elements that underline ongoing analysis
> Gap Analysis and Resulting Operational Plans: Determining where a firm is missing the necessary components for profitability and longevity, and creating a plan to close those gaps
> Scorecard: Creating a system that weds business activities to the mission, vision and strategy, and improves communications and performance against a firm’s overall goals
2. Mind the Gaps. Much like skating drills help hockey players identify their weaknesses and get more comfortable on the ice, a PR firm can mind its performance gaps in order to improve profitability. Identifying the discrepancy between where a firm is and where it wants to be becomes the basis for internal processes that, in turn, fine-tune the achievement for shorter-term goals.
3. Gut Check. Besides the quantifiable things, such as operational benchmark analyses and revenue streams, think about how you feel in terms of where your firm stands. Still having fun? Find the ups and downs of managing a creative business exhilarating? Are you at the age and stage of life you anticipated? A periodic gut check helps hockey players keep challenging themselves to improve and feel comfortable on the ice. It can help you and your PR firm, too.
What areas/analogies help your firm maintain its edge?
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