Here are some that I encounter regularly:
Apportioning the right time for each client
This is a hard one and obviously has a lot to do with the amount of investment by the individual client. Being rigid with days and hours just doesn’t seem to work in PR and communications, as you get interruptions all the time and a “sorry, it’s not my day for that client” response somehow doesn’t cut it. I tend to keep a rough idea of the hours I work on each client per day and go from there. Have an agenda for the day to concentrate mainly on one or two clients.
The key is to manage client expectations realistically. If they are only paying for essentially one day a week, they need to understand what results they may hope for. Your clients will appreciate you far more if you are honest with them.
When engaging with suppliers such as media monitoring, media databases etc you need to be very specific about your requirements. Often you will find there’s a special rate for consultants, and you do not require the magnitude of service they provide. Often you can register for a trial period and then work out if it is going to be of use. Monitoring and access to media lists can be very costly and is unnecessary if you have a solid contact base. LinkedIn is a fabulous source for creating contact lists, as are the social media platforms.
Keeping up with trends
Many larger clients have a need to be with a large or international agency as they feel this might provide them with deeper insights into this profession. However, there are many clients who are unable to afford those rates of larger agencies and look to their PR consultant to keep them up to date on news and media. Since the world of communications changes constantly, you will need to be reading as much as you can fit in. Subscribe to MUmBRELLA, social media and marketing experts (millions on the www) and regularly check for staff changes.
Don’t forget to monitor the client competition as much as possible too, as this will often steer you into new creative territory.
Being always ‘on’
A big problem amongst consultants, as we never stop working. I have read the blogs, listened to the podcasts and am an avid admirer of Arianna Huffington - a strong advocate of healthy work-life balance. But in my opinion, this is one of the greatest challenges. A regular routine is recommended, around some healthy daily habits such as walking first thing (get a dog!) or a daily exercise class. Also, switching off at night and participating in something totally unrelated to work is another good habit to adopt.
As with all small business, the ups and downs in revenue flow are endemic to consultancy work. You will need to be resilient, be able to take the knocks and always maintain a deep sense of self belief for the tough times. Change is inevitable, and the wheels will turn. It’s a good idea to keep an emergency account to draw upon, if you can.
How do you stay motivated?
So - you’ve been pitching for hours with little or no response. It’s monotonous and unrewarding, and trying to retain a fresh focus can present a challenge. Try switching gear. Go write a content piece or a blog. Do some constructive research, talk a walk or make a cup of coffee.
If you find your creative juices are drying up, go out into the world and look around you; something will spark off a new idea. I guarantee it! I have dreamt up some of my most creative pitches while chatting to my local barista. Customer service (both good and bad) is a great source of inspiration for PR!