Improving client service, survey strategies, and more

Is over-servicing standard practice in the PR industry and can client over-servicing be managed in a productive way?

Is over-servicing standard practice in the PR industry and can client over-servicing be managed in a productive way?

Over-servicing of clients seems almost standard practice within the industry, with many PR agencies reporting over-servicing rates of up to 30%, notes Samantha Hurren at Rebus Software. "This is worrying," she says, "as the time spent over-servicing a client not only cannot be invoiced, but it also leads to confusion over estimates, billing, etc."

Hurren stresses the importance of PR agencies having a transparent relationship with the client about everything, including work performed, the actual time spent, the charge rate used, and the agreed invoice value.

"In order to achieve this," she says, "PR firms need to rely on an integrated job costing, client management, and accounting system that is industry-specific and powerful.

"In this way," Hurren adds, "account managers can have access to accurate, detailed information whenever required. And when over-servicing occurs, they have a chance to renegotiate with the client what can be delivered for the existing fee or what level of fee matches the latest client brief."

With all this new technology, can I locate all TV mentions about a company in a given time period?

Improved technology has made it easy for PR executives to track nearly all TV outlets with a relatively small investment, notes CARMA International's Jennifer Hoffmann. "However, communicators should question whether technology can produce actionable data for improving media relations.

"A simple count of all broadcast mentions will likely include erroneous hits, such as irrelevant or duplicate stories," she adds. "Even with an accurate count of hits alone, real intelligence can be gained only through knowledge of what topics were discussed, how spokesperson's comments were characterized, and which messages were conveyed."

Hoffmann explains that companies should identify key TV programs and media markets, review services that track those broadcast outlets, and balance the cost of those services against the quality of information they provide.

She also advises finding out whether or not service providers offer analysis and broadcast coverage in different formats because more technology and more data often lead to confusion.

"Best-practice communicators identify target audiences, monitor the media that reach those target audiences, and measure performance against specific objectives," she says. "It is important for users of PR services to remember that technology is simply the tool, not the technician."

What are some strategies to use when writing survey questions for public release?

"The objective is to create something fresh, original, and even surprising - and ideally something that endures," says Laura Light of Harris Interactive. So, it is essential not to short-change the creative design process.

Map out goals very clearly and design questions that uncover the public's opinion for each. "Don't put everything into one theme," adds Light. "Allow multiple options for analysis to develop your hypothesis. Develop questions that are fair, balanced, comprehensive, and not misleading."

Make sure the topic is broadly relevant. "Ask yourself what your target audience wants to know," she says. "And don't do anything cheap and dirty. The media are smart and will ask the right questions about methodology and design."

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