Archive for May, 2013

A Proposal For Fewer Proposals

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

proposalPlease consider this post written on bended knee. I’m asking you to consider a proposal. I’m not asking for a lifetime commitment, just a change in a business practice that no longer makes sense. This is a proposal to reduce business proposals.

For decades, PR firms were judged on how well they could sling together standard language, over-reaching promises and examples of past work, along with a few lines at the beginning customized for a potential client based on one meeting and, at the end, the all-important fee request (based usually on the highest monthly number the firm thought it could get away with). The proposal would be considered, shared among decision-makers, and then weighed against other firms competing for business. The winning firm would then have to live up to the “best case” scenarios laid out in the proposal and would bill that number from proposal’s end every month, until they were fired.

While business realities have evolved, the PR agency proposal often has not. It’s still a time-consuming exercise in guess work and hypothetical examples. Rarely, if ever, can it delve into what a real relationship would actually be like. Most often, it gives the potential client a false sense of security that it did its “homework” in looking for a firm. Quite often, the proposal goes absolutely nowhere other than the unbillable section of the firm’s time report.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to get thoughts on paper to allow for a process of prioritization and evaluation. In those cases, both the potential client and the firm should agree on what would actually be helpful to be presented and what doesn’t cross the line into free work. Often, a simple letter or memo can lay it all out. If a longer proposal is necessary, there should be shared expectations about what it should contain.

Most often, we prefer to work with potential clients to explore opportunities on level ground. They come to us based on a referral from someone familiar with our work. We try to get to know each other to see if we share common values. We try, in initial conversation, to identify priority areas – the “need to haves” that would be addressed first in an engagement. We talk about a scope of work that could serve as a starting point, and then, and only then, fees that would correspond to the time it would take to accomplish the initial, focused objectives. This two-way dialogue tends to result in the best client relationships we enjoy.

We have frequently written about how RFPs are the worst ways to hire a firm. But even without those Really Flawed Processes, mistakes can be made, time wasted and empty promises made by requiring written proposals that win style points but little else. If you’re shopping for a firm, consider cutting to the case and leaving out the fluff.

Find Home: Where Will Drew & Mike & Dave & Chuck Land Next?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

radio-033012L_1Among the biggest questions coming out of Motown these days: Will Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr bring the city back from the brink? Can the Red Wings take Chicago? And, where are Drew & Mike headed next? Crain’s Detroit Business media watcher Bill Shea tackles #3 in this week’s issue with an initial ‘heads up’ from Matt and additional perspectives from yours truly.  As for the answer? After 22 years at WRIF, no one knows for sure (and the powers that be aren’t saying).

There is plenty of speculation. First, that after 6-months off the year to finish out non-competes, former 89X Morning lewd-sters “Dave & Chuck the Freak” will step into the 101-FM hot seat in order to continue the station’s transition to a younger (18-34) demographic. If you’ve been listening closely to the station over the past year-plus, you’ve no doubt noticed a gradual shift in the music mix toward more alternative-rock-like fare. Specs Howard School’s Dick Kernan, in the Crain’s piece, compares the move to NBC’s transitioning next year of Jimmy Fallon to the “Tonight Show” in order to attract the advertiser-friendly Millennials or (Gen-Yers).

As Drew and Mike announced during their last broadcast Friday this is not the end of the line for them.  That should come as no surprise to anyone considering their incredible popularity and immense listenership.  One rumor going around is that they may end up at the helm of a retooled Magic.  WRIF’s sister station has floundered since Jim Harper retired and, some insiders are saying, there might be a format switch to a more lucrative FM sports station to go head-to-head with CBS’s “The Ticket”.  When you consider the amount of sports Drew and Mike routinely covered, it is far from a stretch.  Another possibility could be Afternoons at another Greater Media sister and Classic Rocker WCSX-FM. (Drew has wanted off Mornings for years as has been well-publicized in the past).

Whomever ends up replacing ‘RIF’s Dynamic Duo, they very well could be in for an initial tough time.  Who can forget  the Rick Rizzs/Bob Rathbun for Ernie Harwell debacle on WJR or the ‘CSX-misfire of “Deminski and Doyle” for “JJ & Lynne”? The hope at WRIF is that Dave & Chuck, who have already been in the market together for 10 years, will be an anomaly with a built-in audience that will follow them up the dial. That audience is out there somewhere. In their last full ratings book of October 2012, D&C ranked 5th in Morning Drive 18+.  Last month, 89X dropped to 21st place in that very same daypart.

Building a Foundation From Day One

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

GotRespect1Mutual respect. Open, honest communication.  At Tanner Friedman, we talk about it a lot and, moreover, practice it, inside and outside the walls of our offices. Matt touched on it again this week in how we prefer to work with media. This time, I’ll talk about clients, or more appropriately, prospective clients, by telling a brief, true story.

About six months ago, a potential new client contacted me after being referred to our agency by a respected Detroit media editor. We spoke briefly by phone and scheduled a time to meet at Tanner Friedman. Within days we were seated at our conference room table and proceeded to have what I felt was a very productive

2-hour meeting to discuss this entrepreneur’s successful background, new venture and key goals as well as the experience, capabilities and fee structure of our agency. As the meeting ended, it was mutually agreed that our organizations appeared to be a good fit for working together and a proposal was requested.

Proposals take time and thought and though we will not prepare specific action plans until hired, we do generally relay a possible approach and potential tactical areas for consideration. In this case, a proposal was drafted and sent to the potential client, followed by follow-up calls and emails over a several week period. The response: absolutely nothing.  No acknowledgment of proposal receipt; no notification of being busy; no note that the individual was moving in a different direction or entirely uninterested.

Months passed and, about a week ago, this individual contacted me again, requesting a discussion regarding a different project. We communicated briefly by email before my messages once again seemingly disappeared into an abyss of silence. My final note to this individual: Respectful communication is a two-way street and a prerequisite for working with Tanner Friedman and that the prospect of our working together was obviously not a good fit. I have yet to hear back. It’s better that way.



Surprise! PR People Need To Hear These Words More Often From Media

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Yes-Checkboxes-Blackboard-1070271It was just three simple words. It took no more than three seconds to write and send. But it was so refreshing, it should be a model of communication.

“No thank you.”

That was the simple email I received back from a media decision-maker who we have worked with for more than a decade. She just wasn’t interested in the story I pitched her, and that was perfectly fine as it’s her job to make those decisions. At least I had an answer, which can be hard to come by these days.

We respect and appreciate the job of the journalist. We understand one of the toughest parts of working in traditional media these days must be contending with the email inbox. We know that too many PR people have no idea how to target a pitch or offer real news and, instead, they “throw it all on the wall and see what sticks.” We even worked with someone years ago who insisted on pitching a feature on a local shopping area to CNN. We also receive emails that are way too long and have trouble getting to the point or have cryptic subject lines. So we know the inbox is filled with more garbage than reporters, editors and producers could possibly answer. It must be really, really annoying.

We know you have more to do than ever before and less help to do it. That’s why we work hard to narrow things down as much as possible before deciding to contact you in the first place.

So, here’s a suggestion that would help us all work better together in this modern age – when it’s an email from a familiar sender or a subject line about a familiar company or organization, or whenever it’s possible to spare a few seconds – please respond.

When you don’t answer, we don’t know what to make of it. Did you not read it? Are you on vacation? Are you not interested? Are you just busy? Should we call? Should we wait a few days? Sometimes, it makes dating seem downright straightforward.

“No thank you” made me want to thank the sender, much to her surprise. But, it meant we didn’t have to call to follow-up. It actually prevented annoyance.

So, whenever possible, something like “I like it. Give me a week,” or “Sorry – just not a fit” or “I’ll call you later” or “call me at 2 p.m.” takes literally just a few seconds and would really be appreciated, especially when we know each other. Most importantly, it prevents an annoying phone call, a second email or even the dreaded, ugly and not recommended “I want to make sure you received the release.” Anytime that can be prevented, it has to be considered a step in the right direction.