Why spreadsheets are where we really need cut-through
Amidst the expected mix of caution and optimism about how the PR industry might fare during 2013, much has been made of the bigger picture level stuff and how it will affect us.
The economy, of course.
PR continuing to gain ground compared to other marketing disciplines because of media change and a need for trusted transparency.
The need to secure and develop integrated, progressive skills in agency teams.
The quest for powerful, creative content and the growth areas that come with it.
So it seems a bit wierd to be narrowing the focus to the humble spreadsheet. But make no bones about it, while it can be a useful tool for basic project planning and list-keeping, the much-maligned spreadsheet is no friend of public relations.
Because more often than not, it restricts us rather than helping to organise our output. Or outcomes.
The reason is simple – spreadsheets are the tools used to manage how budgets are apportioned, and how people are assigned to manage those budgets, accoridng to conventional marketing assertions and legacy financial structures. And in modern, progressive public relations, that model is broken.
We’re able to provide much more valuable, integrated and commercially-tuned public relations today than ever before, yet the approach taken to structuring many budgets was borne in the age of (predominantly) media relations. Forward-thinking clients tend to ignore or overcome those constraints and combine the media relations line item with others in order to provision PR services more effectively. But surely there has to be an easier way then bending or ignoring budget structures to fit commercial needs? Shouldn’t commercial needs – as well as new opportunities – govern how we structure budgets?
And because the budgets are orchestrated from finance departments that way, so too do job functions and responsibilities within communications and marketing teams. How many times have you heard from a client recently that while X is officially their job title, they end up doing work across many other disciplines, in an effort to be better integrated?
We’re tethered to spreadsheets that tie us to the past, to convention and to a narrow view of PR that no longer gives much scope for cut-through.
We should be cutting through spreadsheets, and slicing through the way they’ve served to keep PR in a media relations box for too long. Because without that, genuine cut-through will always be harder to come by.
And rather than always seeking comfort and familiarity, finance teams should be asking the question of how each line item aligns to commercial requirements, rather than to established conventions.
Besides, I can never get those formulae to work properly anyway.