For a creative services firm like, say, a New York PR agency, the two greatest blessings might be loyal staff and long-term client relationships. Each is a gift, and they often go together. But longevity can also pose a challenge. How do you keep a five or ten-year PR program new and relevant? Here are some tips from the experts.
Put a fresh brain on it. Agencies can pull staff from outside the account team and have them take a look at the program with new eyes. This may be in an informal brainstorm or an actual formal review. My favorite tack is to pretend we’re pitching the business for the first time. On the corporate side, consider bringing in an agency on a project basis, strictly to audit and breathe new life into the campaign.
Trade places. It’s usually counterproductive to swap out client-facing staff just for the sake of change, but consider switching at the manager or assistant level. New blood on the team serves two goals: it injects fresh thinking, and it offers new opportunities to staff.
Write it into the plan. There’s something to be said for “planned spontaneity.” We have a longtime client for whom we offer a new idea every two weeks as part of our ongoing work. Some are big, others small. They grow out of our weekly team meetings and give us a turnkey way of offering up new thinking.
Research. Look at what competitors and other brands are doing for inspiration. In the old days we used to review PRSA Silver Anvil entries for ideas. Today, a simple keyword search can yield examples of best practices, most out-of-the-box programs, even famous failures.
Spend a day at the client’s office. If you’re on the corporate side, spend a day with your agency, or at an offsite facility if possible. We never fail to learn something new when we visit our clients, and in general, getting out of your own environment helps refresh your thinking.
Take a blogger to lunch. I think we as PR people can underuse our status as communicators of perception issues and opportunities from a company’s customers and influencers. It always pays to learn something new and design a program element around it.