slow pr client

January 28, 2016: Social media — an incredibly important component of PR today — happens at light speed. Timeliness — once defined in days — is now defined in hours and sometimes minutes. Today’s viral superstar might not even be a memory tomorrow.  Everything is ephemeral, “in the moment” and perpetually in flux.

For PR professionals seeking to lead their clients into this new, rapid-streaming world, the radically fast nature of social media may pose a challenge both to their own agencies and to their clients, which likely run at good old fashioned “human time” and are governed by organizational structures whose essential characteristics — including hierarchy, caution, and often the requirement to have “sign off” from multiple decision-makers — militate against effectiveness.

It’s not that these structures are bad — it’s just that they’re slow. By the time they produce a decision, the world has moved on, practically guaranteeing that any communications resulting from them is reliably irrelevant.

My college Rachel Antman has identified some of these delay-inducing structures, including Administrative Autocracies, Obstructive Bureaucracies, and Inclusive Bureaucracies, in a recent post, How Your Organizational Culture Might be Hurting your PR EffortsIn this post, I want to discuss what to do about them, if you happen to be at a PR or digital agency charged with representing a client’s interest.

Client-side delay is a difficult issue, but here are four things you can do:

1. Lock down deliverables turnaround in your agency service agreement. If both you and your client understand what the review process is for, say, a given blog post (e.g. 24 hours), you’ll be in alignment, and if there are any hitches at the client’s end, everyone will know who’s responsible (and you’ll still get paid for your work). You can’t hope to resolve your client’s organizational slowness; but you can incentivize the client to act as quickly as possible.

2. Know when decision-makers are most active. Different organizations have disparate rhythms. Do the deciders stop deciding on Friday at 3 PM? Or are trapped in meetings all day Monday? Try to arrange your regular communications schedule so that you’ll have the highest chances of gaining the multiple approvals required in bureaucracies.

3. Get out in front of issues early. If you know that your communications on behalf of your client regularly undergo a 48-hour delay period, do your best to compensate for the delay by getting an earlier read on issues likely to be relevant to them. (Obviously, if your communication is reactive (e.g. a bad thing has happened your client needs to respond to), you won’t have this luxury.)

4. Jawbone and Cajole! You can’t really harangue clients too much (most of them, anyway) without fear that they’ll tire of being nagged about their chronic slowpokery. But you can — subtly and tactfully — point out instances where competitors are getting the jump on them because they’ve been able to jump on a trend and make the most of it. While this kind of exchange can be a bit tense, it’s rarely risky — after all, it is your job — as an ambassador of digital PR’s frenetic, fast-breaking, stream-based info-torrent — to be a drum-beater for social media best practices. That’s why you make the big bucks!

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How to speed up a slow PR client
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How to speed up a slow PR client
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