If you are doing public relations and media relations on your own, here is a link to the article to see what our profession brings to organizations that we work with.
I had an interesting conversation with a client the other day. He called to ask us about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While we have a foundational knowledge about SEO and integrating SEO elements when developing online content (including websites, blog posts and news releases), our client’s needs went beyond our communications abilities in this area and we referred him to an SEO specialist.
His response: “You are always so responsive and take care of what I need, even if you don’t provide it. You make it easy for me.”
That’s a big compliment to receive. Our commitment to providing exceptional service to our clients is a big part of the AHA brand promise. From the moment we decided to open our doors, we knew that was who we were (and 11 years later, we still are). And it is one of the reasons that we have so many long-term clients and others that regularly use us on a project basis. We have excellent skills, solid expertise and a depth of knowledge that comes from experience and that is very important. But, I believe what tips the scales in our favour are the seemingly small details that are built into our brand promise.
We are client service oriented and are incredibly responsive. We have a strong focus on providing value to clients; we respect their budget and do everything we can to maximize return-on-investment. And while we take our work seriously, we like to have fun in our workplace and with our clients. There are times to be serious and focused and there are also opportunities to enjoy the moment and each other’s company, and we try to do that whenever it is appropriate.
We’re not your average communications agency, which means we’re not for everyone. Our brand promise is that for our clients – for the people and organizations where we are a fit – we’re a part of their team. Their success is as important to us as our success. It matters to us and we’re going to act and respond that way – during successes and challenges.
What’s your brand promise and how do you deliver on it?
At AHA, we have just completed and submitted a strategic communications plan for a start-up organization client. It was clear that this client has many opportunities to use marketing communication and PR to raise awareness of their service and engage their target market and stakeholder groups. However, it’s a small organization and they are in start-up mode. Their ability to implement had to be seriously taken into consideration in the development of the plan.
This is something that we are aware of with every client – from large global corporations to local companies to government agencies and everyone in between. We have worked with some companies that have large budgets and we have worked with those that are financially challenged. No matter who (or how big) the client organization is, it is crucial to ask: What are their resourcing (human and financial) limitations?
Developing plans with clients is one of our favourite things to do and we’re really good at it. And, I have to admit, there are days when I wish that the magical client, with an unlimited budget and who is ready to take calculated risks, would appear and we could see every great idea that could be brought to life. I am starting to think that client is a bit like the myth of the unicorn, Bigfoot or desserts that don’t make you gain weight. They are nice to dream about, but they really don’t exist.
One of the interesting and exciting challenges that we, as communicators, face is how we can create a great plan that generates measureable results and can be implemented within the budget. Everyone who knows me gets that I love a good challenge and, as a PR agency, we have become really good at digging in and developing effective plans that work within identified resources.
Getting a client to talk about the barriers they face during the plan development stage can be difficult – but it’s important. Does the client have the right people in the right roles with the right skill set or do they need to budget for a contractor or consultant? Is the client capable of doing what needs to be done, in house, to meet the deadlines? If not, something needs to be adjusted to accommodate these issues.
Start-ups are often focused on big ideas; there is excitement and energy and inspiration in the room. Sometimes, they look at what others in their field have done and they want to emulate their initiatives, and that’s not always the best approach. Even taking a best practices approach, it’s important to understand what resources it took to achieve those outcomes and if they authentically fit with your stakeholder group, objectives and goals.
We always provide a measurement component in plans. When presenting the draft plan to the client, that is where I start – measurement and its importance. How the elements in the plan will be measured – including the return-on-investment – always leads back to budget. Putting it all into context is important before you can showcase the tools, tactics and technologies that will be implemented.
It’s much easier to develop an exciting plan when you don’t bring resourcing into it. A blue-sky plan is fun to write; there’s nothing holding you back. A realistic plan takes a lot more research and effort, which is why it works when it is implemented. There are no surprises or detours that take the client away from their strategic road map – they just keep moving forward, measuring the return-on-investment and experiencing success.
Most blue-sky plans don’t get implemented because the resources necessary aren’t available. They are just nice stories on pretty paper.
What would you rather have?
Each month someone from the AHA Crew is given a small budget and sent out to do a random act of kindness. For August, our fabulous PR Coordinator Laurie Hanley was given the job. Below is her blog post. — Ruth Atherley
Have you ever searched for an empty parking space in your hometown? This is not an easy task in any major city and Halifax is no exception. It’s just brutal. It takes its toll on even the most delightful Pollyanna-type personalities. So when I was given $50 to do a random act of kindness, I ended up choosing to brighten the day for busy drivers who might have felt a little down in their search for a parking spot.
My kids and I went into the bank and got two rolls of loonies. The teller smiled and asked “Laundry day?” “Sort of,” I smiled back. Armed with 50 shiny coins, we set out on foot for Spring Garden Road, where we immediately bumped into my brother-in-law (Halifax is a largish city but also a very small town) who was keen to break in a new pair of sneakers – so he joined us.
We walked and we walked… all over town. It was a gorgeous day – blue sky, hot sun, cool summer breeze. We spent the afternoon looking for our target: an empty parking space just waiting for someone to pull in. And when we would finally find one, we’d sit down on the curb and wait. Sure enough, within minutes, someone would pull in… forwards, backwards, getting the car lodged in there, just right. Then there would be a moment of quiet. A quick cellphone check, some deep breathing, a fumbling for coins. And out of their car they’d step. That’s when I’d call: “Go!” and one of the kids would run up to the meter and pay for their parking. They would give a little wave and say: “Have a wonderful day!”
The reaction to this was amazing. Watching the person’s face as it turned from completely rushed and frustrated into the biggest grin was so worth the wait. “What are you kids up to?” said one smiley man. “Here, buy yourselves some ice cream,” said a woman trying to hand us money – which we, of course, politely declined. “Here…” said a very grateful man as he reached into his shirt pocket. “Oh no, it’s all good! Happy Friday!!” we said. But he kept on coming closer… his hand coming out of his pocket so eagerly… “I have candy! I have four of them here… and lots more in the car.” Is that a Werthers? Well, I wouldn’t want to be rude.
We did this all afternoon. It was the best Friday I’ve had in a long time. We got completely immersed in our random-act-of-kindness bubble. Normally, walking around downtown, I am like everyone else – on a mission. I have a limited amount of time to be somewhere and I don’t notice anything or anyone. But our Random Act of Kindness Day was different. We relaxed, took things in, and connected with people. And believe it or not, we still have so many loonies left. These empty parking spaces are hard to find. So one sunny day this week, we’ll pick a peak time and head back down to finish the job.
People are busier than ever these days. But what I was reminded of on Friday is that underneath the serious business face, there is still a human being. There is genuine good spirit. And we all have a need to give back. People want to connect – it’s just a difficult thing to do when we are rushing around, trying to be in 10 different places at once. But it’s so good to know we can still take the time to make eye contact and smile and make a difference in someone’s day.