I read with interest a blog post on PR Moment which cites meetings as a waste of time.
Although the article, written by Hacked Off Flack, is tongue in cheek to some extent (at least I hope so – he states falling asleep as a way to keep your meetings short!) I can’t help but come back with a rebuttal.
Having started a new job two weeks ago, building client relationships is one of the most important things I need to do in order to effectively manage my client’s accounts. I am passionate that this can’t be done without regular face-to-face contact.
But I won’t disagree completely with Hacked Off Flack – I have been in many meetings which have proven to be a complete waste of time, turning into lengthy debates rather than short, sharp decision making sessions.
With that in mind, here some tips to ensure your meetings remain productive.
1). It’s all about the agenda
Draft a realistic agenda before the meeting and issue it to all parties for additions and reference (about a week before if possible). This will make sure that everyone is in agreement on what needs to be discussed, and will hopefully stop anything from being missed off, or tangents from taking over. Try and plan how long you think each item will last and decide your meeting length around this. Most importantly – stick to it and steer people back to the agenda if necessary.
2). Someone take notes
And by this I don’t mean illegible scribble (which is what I’m often guilty of!) but proper, detailed notes of decisions and actions. Note taking is actually a pretty hard skill to master – being able to filter the bullshit and capture the stuff that really matters should not be underestimated.
3). Clarify actions at the end of each meeting
How many times have you left a meeting still not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing, or wondering if your client is really clear about what you need them to do? At the end of the meeting have your dedicated note taker clarify each person’s actions, quickly and succinctly.
4). Circulate a contact report
Issue a contact report to all parties after the meeting, confirming in writing what has been agreed. In my view a written record is vital to ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved by when. It’s also a good tool to look back on when you’re nearing the next meeting, to make sure that everything has been actioned.
5). Think about who should attend
Most PROs and agencies charge per hour or day, and meetings can quickly eat into a retainer. Think carefully about who should be in the meeting – do you really need an account director, manager and two account executives? Only have those who will truly benefit from the meeting, both from your team and the client’s perspective.
6). Always schedule an end time
If you don’t have an end time you’re asking for trouble! Keep an eye on the time and give the odd countdown to remind people; e.g.: “We’ve got 15 minutes left, shall we move onto the next item?”
7). Get into a routine
Decide how often you need to have client meetings; monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, whatever. But whatever you choose – stick to it. It’s when meetings get cancelled and you try and roll six months worth into one meeting that things get a bit hectic! The last item on your agenda should always be ‘date of the next meeting’.
8). Get biscuits (or cookies for my American readers)
Sugar makes every meeting easier to bear. Trust me, it’s a well known fact.
Many red-top haters have dreamed to hear the words ‘the News of the World is closing down’.
Those dreams became a reality yesterday as News International announced that its last ever issue of the tabloid will be published this Sunday, in a bid to limit the political and commercial repercussions of the phone hacking scandal.
Allegations of phone hacking at the paper have been rife for years. Hacking into celebrity’s phones is pretty low on the scale of journalism ethics, but this time the NOTW stooped lower than even its most reverent haters could have imagined.
Under the watchful eye of editor at the time Rebekah Brooks (who denies all knowledge), the NOTW allegedly ordered a private investigator to hack into the mobile telephones of murder victim Milly Dowler, families of murdered children Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, relatives of London bombings victims and members of the armed forces that died on duty. Messages were apparently deleted to allow room for more ‘story leads.’
Those who stand by the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ mantra will swiftly point out that the key word there is ‘allegedly’. But, after paying off celebs such as Sienna Miller in phase one of the scandal, one can only jump to the conclusion that these allegations must have at least a little fire behind the smoke – if not a full-blown furnace.
And it seems advertisers feel the same. They have been dropping like flies throughout the week, and Sunday’s final edition will publish with NO corporate advertising. I’ll be buying it just to see what that looks like.
However, despite this background of hacking claims and falling advertising, coupled with Murdoch’s ruthless reputation, the announcement that the paper is to close still came as a massive shock to the industry – an industry which is still reeling a day later and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
It’s been around for 168 years, employs a staff of over 200 people and sells over 2.5 million copies a week. You just don’t expect a media institution like the NOTW (and it is an institution – whether you like or agree with its particular style of journalism or not) to fall at all, let alone fall so quickly and amidst such a, well, such a sh*t storm.
But then again, on closer inspection perhaps it’s not a shock as such – more a well-timed business decision. And a clever one at that – who knows if it would have survived such hideous allegations – and this way it doesn’t have to wait and find out.
It’s no secret that News Corporation has an £8 billion bid on the table to buy BSkyB (although reports are in that this is already under threat). And with a price tag that big, there is more at stake than just a UK newspaper. No one wants to be associated with such horrendous and inhuman activity – whether the allegations turn out to be true or not – and Murdoch is well aware of this.
With rumours already spreading that there will be a Sunday version of The Sun on the shelves within two weeks one can only wonder what effect, in the long term, this will have on the one thing that it all comes down to – News Corporation’s bottom line. Will one cash cow be replaced swiftly with another? My opinion is yes, although perhaps not quite as quickly as some suggest, especially as the story continues to snowball and arrests are happening even as I’m writing this. Plus, as the saying goes – mud sticks.
Whatever the next steps may be, my thoughts go out to the real victims of the phone hacking scandal; the families whose privacy has been so grossly invaded and the staff who await with baited breath to see if they have jobs to go to, or if they are the ones made to take the fall for other people’s mistakes.