"He worked really hard, Grandpa."

By Matter

“So do washing machines.”

Aside from giving me an opportunity to quote one of the all-time classics, this exchange also provides a cautionary tale for PR agency pros…or anybody in a client service business, really.

With overflowing to-do lists, greater client pressures (both on and by clients), instant news cycles and myriad options for staying updated / getting distracted, some days it seems like just getting stuff done is a win. It’s easy to fall into the “we’ve been really busy for client X, so they must be happy” mindset.

While it is true that checking off action items and giving clients a lot of attention are cornerstones of effective day-to-day PR programs, they are merely the minimum requirements in a client relationship. The trickier part is to consistently do the things that deliver real business value to clients (read: the things they are willing to pay for over a sustained period of time). These things are actually much harder, even if they are less time consuming. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the answer varies from client to client. And clients don’t always know what the answer is. (Oh, and sometimes they know they don’t know and sometimes they don’t know that they don’t know…).

So, what’s my point? It is simply this: if you work at a PR agency today, you need to hit the brakes (a phrase I’ve stolen from our CEO) far more often to make sure you aren’t letting “doing stuff” get in the way of the things that really make a difference to your clients (and your ability to keep them as happy clients).

Clients use agencies that can get coverage, write case studies and win awards. Clients rely on agencies that can do all that and deliver competitive insight, inform and challenge their overall marketing strategy, create differentiated and defensible positions in the market. This stuff is rarely urgent (which is why it can easily get lost in the shuffle), but it always important. Make time for it.