I recently joined a team for the Tough Mudder race held near Dallas. Tough Mudder is a 12-mile obstacle course that requires physical and mental endurance to complete and is designed to be a challenge for anyone to overcome. Some people start the event with a team, but the goal is to help every racer finish and leave no man behind.
While the Tough Mudder is more extreme than what we typically deal with in PR, the broader goals are still similar. During the Tough Mudder you want to perform well for your teammates, yourself and your friends or family who come to cheer you on. In PR, you want to perform well for your client, yourself and your company.
The public relations industry involves a lot of hurdles you may or may not see coming your way. No matter the size of the obstacle, you want to clear it and keep moving forward. Here are three things to consider when you are confronted with an unforeseen PR challenge.
Once you and your client agree upon the goals for the month, you ideally want to stick to the plan outlined in your scope of work. However, if you are a PR professional you know that every month will not go exactly as planned. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can create bumps in the road for the work you promised to complete.
When a client makes additional requests or changes their mind about moving forward with a project, you will need to decide if the goals and timeline align with the results they want to achieve. Determining whether a project can fit into the amount of work you have for the month is important and will impact your workload, quality of work and budget.
When a client makes an unexpected request, it may or may not affect your existing list of priorities. Sometimes the task can be easily added to the scope of work. A great way to plan for this is to include a couple of ad hoc hours in your statement of work (SOW) each month.
Other times the client needs a project completed but doesn’t want to adjust the deadline for other tasks. This can happen when the client has some unexpected news or a product’s launch timeline moves. Clients want us to do the best work possible for them, so it is up to us to explain what the pros and cons of adding extra items to the scope of work will be.
First, talk with your team to determine if there are any concerns with taking on the extra work. Then contact your client, preferably via phone, and discuss any concerns you may have with the new project and how it will affect other tasks, deadlines or the budget. Perhaps you can accomplish all tasks but won’t be able to devote as much time to media pitching or reporting.
Remember to not respond hastily or reactively to a clients’ request. The goal is to make your client’s life easier by offering solutions. You may recommend moving forward with all tasks while scaling back time spent on some of them. Or, you may want to propose a project fee to accommodate the new request. Of course you want to say yes to your client whenever possible. However, you must make sure that you and your client remain aligned on the goals and timing, while keeping the best interests of your team and the agency in mind.
Once you determine what the new goals will be, don’t forget to adjust the SOW and set new expectations. Creating this document with specific goals and timing in mind will help everyone stay up to speed on the new plan and keep projects moving forward. If you are unable to complete certain tasks on time, record it and explain to the client what the next steps are. Maintaining records like these while staying in communication with your client will lead to a better working relationship and alignment of goals.