Why don't they just listen?

Don't you hate it when people ignore your advice?

Why don't clients just listen to the advice they pay for, asks Tom Morris
Why don't clients just listen to the advice they pay for, asks Tom Morris
As a comms professional you spend hours coming up with a considered and creative strategy to navigate the media minefield, and then the organisation goes and does something completely different. 

An inevitable thought process follows: resentment – "how dare they"; bitterness – "serves them right if it flops"; and then, resignation – "I suppose I’ve got to salvage this somehow".

This voyage is followed by sullen musings, often over a drink, that no-one should hire a consultant and ignore their counsel. 

At best it’s a waste of money. 

At your nadir, you imagine next time leaving the offending party to their own devices in a fit of malevolence. 

Sighing, you dismiss the vision both for its unprofessional negligence and the sad truth; it would benefit no one, least of all you. 

Your quandary seems insoluble. But is it? 

Closing 2014, PRWeek issued its Power Book edition. Therein, the industry’s great and good numbered its two greatest weaknesses: an "inferiority complex" and an "inability to quantify results".

The irony of the reputation industry’s reputational anxiety aside, it’s the link between these issues that’s most troubling. 

Our career angst and the corresponding condescension of others (perceived or otherwise) is an industry failure. 

PR has proved unable to reach any consensus about how our work’s impact should be quantified; triggering the belief it can be reproduced by anyone. 

What’s more, our collective inability to convey that impact in terms of bottom lines threatens to paint us as an industry that can literally afford to be discounted. 

In short, our work is fit only for dismissal if we cannot demonstrate its unique and measurable business value. We owe it to ourselves to change this.

Being agency-based, this piece originally questioned clients who ignore the advice of our sort. 

But the fact is most day-to-day clients are beholden to executives with limited or no comms experience who are in turn free to ignore them.

It is to those bosses that all PRs – agency and in-house – must prove the worth of their industry. 

To that end, any PR strategy should be built on quantitative evidence that demonstrates a clear rationale and proves its worth. 

Without it, the soft skills so fundamental to PR risk being seen as so much smoke and mirrors. 

Likewise, the eventual comms output has to be linked to business outcome, be that stock prices, sales figures or analyst reports – as much for our benefit as the clients’ own understanding. 

To do this is to create a dynamic of confidence and trust between all parties. 

On the one hand, those commissioning PR see the clear and strategic thinking that constitutes their purchase. 

On the other, agency and in-house PRs can rest assured the aims and results of their strategy are clear for all to see and endorse. 

It is in this way that PR will gain the authority to shape not only how organisations communicate but what they do in order to be talked about.

Tom Morris is a consultant at Fishburn

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