The start of a new year makes it convenient, and necessary, to interrupt a client’s public relations program.
The day-to-day business of interacting with a client is so fast and furious — faster and more furious in some industries than in others, granted — that making time to take a reflective step back from the madness and to do some real planning is something almost no one wants to make time for. Because it’s just more work.
But it’s an agency’s responsibility, as a steward of the client’s brand and as a business partner being paid for a specific expertise and to deliver measured results, to insist on an annual kick-off meeting; a meeting dedicated to examining and questioning the status quo and agreeing to an appropriate course correction.
When the process is managed correctly, the client will be grateful that their agency made the annual kick-off meeting a reality and for securing communications program alignment among communications stakeholders.
What goes into an annual kick-off meeting?
Well, whether it’s the 10th annual kick-off meeting with a long time client or the first ever kick-off with a new client, the agenda is relatively the same. With the former, the goal is to uncover from the client any subtle, transitional changes in their business that are important to understand and to consider for the 2015 program, and that the agency may not be fully aware of. With the latter, it’s more about ramping up and discovery and becoming saturated in the client’s business; in which case there will be lots of follow up work.
My best advice regarding a kick-off meeting agenda is to keep it simple. Some agencies think a fancy “branded” name for their kick-off planning process means the client may be willing to pay more for the exercise and for access to the firm’s “proprietary methodology.”
Don’t fall for it. As they say in real estate, K-I-S-S.
Other agencies, while they may “brand” their planning process, won’t charge extra for the kick-off meeting. They’ll consider it part of their client service. Work with an agency like that!
Here’s a sample of what your kick-off meeting agenda should look like:
Objectives, market situation and audiences
- What business is the client in?
- Review the client’s business objectives and marketing objectives?
- What is the market situation (for an existing client, how has the market changed)?
- Who are the key stakeholder audiences? Identify and prioritize audience segments.
- What do key audiences want from the client?
Trends influencing the client’s business and industry
Research, examine, discuss and prioritize the top trends that are impacting and will impact the client’s market. Trends may run the gambit from social trends (e.g., the sharing economy), tech trends (like mobile/wearables), and market trends (can be anything from things like staycations, discounting, interest rate changes, etc., depending on the industry).
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the client’s products or services (innovation, price, quality, Made in the USA, availability, etc.)?
- Who are the primary competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses (less expensive, more features, inferior quality)?
- What differentiates the client’s products and services from the competition and how important are these differentiators to consumers (e.g., do consumers care if the product is made in the USA)?
- What are the top three differentiators and competitive threats?
Once the core of the agenda has been conquered and the meeting participants are itching to run from the conference room, it’s time to attempt to pull it all together. For this final phase of the meeting, consider using a SWOT analysis to determine the client’s key strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. From the SWOT analysis, which everyone will want to participate in, agree to a half-dozen or so key insights which will have implications for the communications program. Leverage the insights and try to get alignment around key messages.
A disciplined approach to a kick-off meeting, where all participants agree to focus and collaborate for just a few hours, will yield an outcome that will keep on giving throughout the year.