The rule of thumb for PR productivity is that each staffer clocks 1700 hours, per year, that is available to be billed to clients. That’s the goal, as some firms collectively struggle to reach that amount of productivity while others (read: bigger firms) tend to exceed it.
However, there are several other ways that PR agency owners and C-level executives can pump up the volume when it comes to staff productivity and billing.
A growing number of PR agencies, of course, are investing in time management software to help manage the ship. But in a post-digital age there are dozens of these types of programs to choose from. What is more, getting objective information on how each “black box” performs can be problematic, so buyer beware.
But there are other, less complicated ways to boost staff productivity and billing. Here a few of them to send to your staff—a collective mantra to help ensure that the work you perform on behalf of clients is adequately compensated.
> Think of your invoices not as bills but as sales letters. In preparing your agency’s invoice never assume your clients know everything you’ve done for them. It’s far better to assume they don’t—and bring them up to speed. But don’t go overboard and provide the client with every last excruciating detail. The activity report that accompanies the invoice should be a clean, easy-to-follow list highlighting what you provided your client during a particular billing period and the value you are gearing up to provide your clients for their future PR endeavors.
> Keep your billing activities transparent. In a hypercompetitive marketplace, clients feel entitled to know precisely what you’re doing on their behalf and what it’s costing them. That’s why it’s crucial that every staffer describe their activities in ways that can answer clients’ questions: who, what, when, where and how. But, to our point above, be careful not to overload the report with the minutiae of your activities, which will only complicate things. Yet activity notes should not be merely descriptive. They need context so that clients will immediately understand why a particular activity is valuable.
> Stay abreast of your client’s (changing) needs. Most PR firms establish their billing patterns at the beginning of their relationship with a client, and then just let things run their course. However, when you consider the accelerating pace of change in PR, letting things run their course can be downright counterproductive. To avoid this, build in a series of “midcourse check-ins.” As the firm takes on each engagement for clients, schedule these meetings to re-examine the financial side of your client/agency relationship. If your agency’s account executives are doing their jobs correctly, there will be no surprises. But if a problem turns up, here’s the opportunity to nip it in the bud and prevent friction and feelings that might otherwise put the kibosh on the client/agency relationship altogether.
This an excerpt from the new (and 4th) edition of “The Ultimate PR Agency Financial Management Handbook,” by Rick Gould, CPA, J.D., managing partner of Gould+Partners. For more information, please click here.
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