Measuring the success of a PR campaign is important. So is measuring how much time your team spent creating and implementing that campaign. This combination provides an understanding of input and output: time and resources invested, compared to what was gained from the campaign itself.
In this PRTech Pro Spotlight, I interview ClickTime CEO Alex Mann to address a challenge that almost every PR agency faces: how to manage projects as efficiently as possible and ensure that employees are spending their time effectively.
If you haven’t heard of ‘em, ClickTime is a time and expense management application designed for professional service firms such a PR and creative agencies. It’s one of the latest additions to our PRTech ecosystem, a list of platforms every PR professional should be aware of, if not actively using for more data-driven public relations.
Leta Soza: There’s a lot of innovation taking place across the PR industry. Why did you decide to focus on the challenges of the PR agency instead of the individual PR professional?
Alex Mann: When people think of public relations, it’s often in terms of the clients: creating content, fighting for media coverage, and measuring outcomes. There are some great tools available to track hits, monitor social media, manage relationships, etc., but there are very few tools available to promote the health of the agency itself.
We realized that it’s challenging for agency owners and managers to effectively manage costs, staff projects, and maximize revenue. Whether an agency is using a retainer-based model, hourly billing, or value-based pricing, there are many variables to contend with.
On top of that, employee availability fluctuates rapidly (with vacation time and sick leave), customer needs change quickly, and benchmarking project costs and time can be a struggle. That’s why we wanted to create a platform that makes it easier for agencies to operate efficiently.
LS: For PR agencies to ensure longevity and profitability, which problems/challenges are most important to solve?
AM: Reducing over-servicing, increasing employee efficiency, and retaining talent are essential for any successful agency. I think for long-term success, you need to address them all. Our area of expertise is in over-servicing.
If your employees are over-servicing, not only are they performing free work for your clients, but they also have less available hours to work on other projects. This has a significant impact on your team’s capacity to take on new work or to properly plan employee time in the future. It also leads to excessive staffing levels, which starves an agency of resources for growth.
LS: What productivity and time management benchmarks or KPIs are most important for PR agencies to track?
AM: High-performing agencies focus on employee utilization, employee capacity, and revenue per employee. They need to be measured accurately, goals should be set, and progress against those goals should be measured. These are such important metrics that agencies should consider linking them to performance reviews and compensation decisions.
LS: How do you stay abreast of the changes within the agency world and the greater PR industry in general?
AM: We’re very fortunate that we get to spend time with so many great agencies around the world. Our customers do a great job of informing us of their needs and sharing industry trends. We’re also partners with PR Council and PRSA, both of which offer excellent educational opportunities for technology companies like ClickTime.
LS: Give me an example of how you’ve helped an agency succeed.
AM: One of our newer customers, MMI Public Relations, has been able to more effectively allocate employee resources and manage client budgets through our platform. We’ve helped many agencies reduce administrative costs and improve operations across the board.
LS: Most recent thing you’ve read or watched that moved you?
AM: I recently completed “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant. It’s one of those great business books that has immediate application in other parts of your life. Grant helps you better understand the people surrounding you, in both professional and private realms, and focus on your interactions with them. The book affirms something many people know intuitively, but don’t always practice day-to-day — that generosity in relationships can foster success in life.