by MJ ONeill
September 22nd, 2017

Talking about money is tough. On a personal level, discussing financial worth isn’t something most people are comfortable with. Many may feel embarrassed to ask for money and uncomfortable when challenged about it.

However, to effectively move forward in the public relations industry, we need to get more comfortable in seeking the funds needed to do work that pushes the boundaries and makes brands stand out.  This was the advice of Weber Shandwick Australia’s Managing Director Ava Lawler, who recently presented on the importance of budget collaboration at the 2nd annual Women in Comms and PR conference.

To help unlock the discussion, we conducted a survey of senior practitioners from both in-house clients and agencies. The majority believe it’s possible to collaborate well when it comes to campaign budgeting.

Traditional practices like issuing press releases and media kits have been overtaken with discussions around content, influencers and digital. Our work is becoming more complex and diverse but budgets aren’t evolving at the same pace.

Here are Ava’s top tips for strengthening collaboration to overcome budget challenges and deliver greater impact:

Enable equal participation

Bring your most open and understanding self to the table. By working collaboratively on developing budgets there’s a sense from both clients and agencies that less negotiation would be necessary at the final stages of sign-off.

“If both parties are really open and honest with each other in their communication while also demonstrating flexibility, the whole process of budget collaboration will be easier and more enjoyable.”

Agencies prefer clients to be upfront in clearly defining the budget parameters so they can respond with an accurate plan with less back and forth. They’re keen to understand what flex there may be in budget to ensure accuracy with their value-add offerings.

At the same time, clients are frustrated that they’re often excluded from the prioritisation process and feel more progress could be made if more collaboration happened during the creation phase. They’re calling for greater input from agencies to articulate the outcomes and impacts of their work on business objectives. If clients are going to request a bigger budget – or any budget for that matter – they need to justify the investment to their bosses.

Build trusting relationships

Shared goals, mutual respect and open communication are essential to effective budgeting in any relationship.

“We both want to produce creative, innovative campaigns that generate action from our audiences, excite our teams and impress our bosses. The more we bring our conversations back to these shared goals, the more effective the relationship will be.”

Strengthening the relationships between in-house teams and agencies is important. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, there’s a mutual passion for the value and impact of our work.

Clearly define, measure and communicate ROI

As public relations professionals, we want to speak confidently of the value of our work. Clients and agencies can work together to better demonstrate impact and a measurable return on investment. Finding more accurate ways to identify benchmarks, measure our activity and review progress with the business is key to doing just that.

Earlier this year the PRIA launched its Measurement and Evaluation Framework. This provides the perfect opportunity for our industry to unite in measurement methodology and move campaigns along the spectrum. This will put us in a better position to move from measuring outputs and outcomes to being able to prove the impact our work has on business objectives.

There is a significant opportunity for client and agency teams to increase our focus on shared values and goals, beyond words and actions, to help balance realities with expectations. We’re united in our goal to develop impactful campaigns that will get our brands noticed.  Now is the time to work better together to budget them in a way that’s realistic and successful for all involved.

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