The secret fuel is gratitude

Content. Creativity. Connections. On the face of it, these are the success factors for a PR program.

Content. Creativity. Connections. On the face of it, these are the success factors for a PR program. True enough, without these elements, a campaign won't go. But with only these elements, it won't go very far.

There's a fourth ingredient that acts as the swing item: desire. All else equal, the team that wants the outcome the most will win. Victory often comes down to the extra effort made by that one person who wouldn't give up.

The trouble is, you can't buy desire. You can put money on the table for expertise, for eagerness, willingness, and even for passion for your offering – but sustained, long-term desire – that only comes as a result of the relationship you maintain with the people on your team. But make no mistake, getting teams to happily strive brings incredible value to your PR spend. And the best news is that it won't cost you a cent.

This week, an account team at my agency knocked it out of the park, and felt pretty good about it. At first, probably only “PR person-good” though. This could be described as the positive emotion of knowing you've done a good job with something difficult, paired with the nervous feeling as you wait to find out whether the client agrees. In a few instants, the team morale went from “PR person-good” to just plain great.

In a note to the team, copying our agency leaders, a senior client contact described his joy about a result, and called out the particular efforts of each of the contributors. This wasn't the first time he had spent the time to express his gratitude, either, which is arguably why this wasn't the first time he had an opportunity to do so. It's like a passion injection to hear this from a client.

Maybe the value of the thank you doesn't seem like a new insight, and you may wonder whether Mr. Rogers is telling you how to manage your agency. But if he couldn't convince you that it was only nice to say thank you, I'm here to convince you it's only good business sense.

Compliments do not breed complacency. Telling your team that they are doing a good job does not make them rest on their laurels. You aren't being a good manager by being stoic or gruff – you're losing result. In fact, agency managers will tell you they have a hard time getting people to stop working on successful accounts to focus on the struggling ones. This is because it feels good to be successful – it's quite addictive to get positive feedback.

The fact remains, the difference between an average program and an exceptional one might very well be based on whether a 20-something account executive heading toward the weekend feels like picking up the phone one more time. If you've convinced the team you appreciate it, it's 100 times more likely they will. And chances are you'll feel good after doing it too.

Ian Lipner is VP at Lewis PR.

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