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The in-house client: Common challenges and how to face them

call-is-coming-from-inside-the-house

Many PR pros who don’t work in agencies are part of in-house integrated communications teams that take on agency-like structures. Research has shown that this type of structure is one of the essential characteristics of the marketing organization of the future. 

If you are part of one of these teams, it usually means you are providing advice and production services to internal client groups. 

This type of work can be a lot of fun, as it involves cross-functional collaboration in the effort to reach common organizational goals. There are however, some challenges faced by the internal account executive in managing these important stakeholder groups—especially if the internal agency configuration is new to your organization.

Here are just a few common challenges:

1. Perception that you are a service provider, not a consultant. Often, internal clients see the communications department as the place that produces brochures, writes news releases, or posts social media updates. Some internal client groups will approach you with a specific request rather than seeking advice on an all-encompassing strategy.

How to face it: Close the gap between PR strategy and tactics. Educating your internal clients about the difference between strategy and tactics is essential. Show them successful examples of objectives and research-based communications and highlight the results. This will help them understand that campaigns work better than one-offs and that your department’s expertise goes beyond writing copy and designing email headers.

2. Perception that you don’t understand their needs. You may be a skilled PR pro, but this sometimes gets overlooked if you don’t have a great deal of knowledge regarding your internal clients’ field, product, or service. Your client might not trust your advice or approach if he or she feels that you don’t grasp their needs.

How to face it: Research and constant communication. If you don’t have experience with your clients’ portfolio, do your homework. Read up on their offerings, history, competitors, previous communication strategies, and market research—the works. Also, offer to have them give you a crash course to better understand their business. It will make things easier when the roles are reversed and you are providing them with advice. Plus, it will contribute to enhanced cross-functional collaboration and help you and your team do a better job. 

3. Endless back-and-forth on decisions. The absence of billable hours in an internal shop can mean your clients will repeatedly come back to you with changes in scope, suggestions, and modifications. This hinders the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your strategy and can hamper your ability to deliver a project on time. 

How to face it: Implement a proper workflow process. A structured workflow that takes your client from the research and strategy phase to building ideas, tactical plan development, implementation, and measurement will help guide your projects and create a sense of discipline and shared ownership. Putting a workflow in place requires you to identify the steps required to bring a given project to life, as well as the requisite timelines, accountabilities, approvers, and processes. Create a master milestone charter of all the steps, and get your client to sign off on it so that he/she knows that an extra round of corrections or a last-minute add-in will compromise your deadline or incur additional costs.

Internal communications shops are forever attached to their clients, which makes establishing a healthy relationship and process essential. Continuous internal education and workshops will help cross-functional teams to better understand each other’s work. 

As PR pros we should share examples of how agencies and other organizations do things to help our internal clients understand how we can help them achieve our shared organizational goals. 

Source:prdaily.com

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