A PLEA FOR HELP: Seeking Incentives That Work for PR Firms

We can’t be the only PR firm with this problem: how to maximize collaboration with sister ad agencies, specifically for business development.  By way of background, our 30+ person firm was acquired in 2006 by the Dudnyk Exchange, which also owns two ad agencies and an interactive unit based in suburban Philadelphia.  The ad agencies focus on healthcare, while the interactive unit has a broader clientele.  BlissPR, headquartered in New York with offices in Chicago and St. Louis, specializes in financial services and professional services and has begun to develop healthcare capabilities.

The Board of the Exchange, on which I sit, and the heads of the four business units recognize that more collaboration would benefit all concerned.  However, several factors stand in our way.  One is the strong cultures that have been built up over time both by the largest ad agency and by our firm, which are roughly the same size.  Another is the simple fact that we are not co-located with our “sisters.”  As a result, I offered to lead an initiative that would explore possible incentives that would engender more business development collaboration.

We first contacted David Rhoads of ThreePoint Consulting, which specializes in helping professional firms align partner and staff compensation with key strategic goals.  David gave us excellent counsel, suggesting an initial benchmarking study to determine best practices among organization similar to ours.  He also provided us with a very thorough template as a guide.

We thought that we had an excellent laboratory in which to begin our research.  BlissPR is a member of Worldcom, the largest network of independent PR firms on the planet.  We have been very active in the organization over 13 years and, as a result, know well the heads of many of our 100 partner firms.  Some  of these firms also have sister agencies as we do.  What better place to start our research?

Well, not really, because it turns out that all five of the firms we interviewed have solved the problem.  They are operationally and financially integrated, sharing a single P&L and balance sheet.  None of the organizations offered any incentives  for one business unit to help another generate leads, referrals or introductions.  It was just expected of them to do so, and everyone understood the rules.  By the way, this sample was pretty broad geographically; I spoke to colleagues in Buffalo, Cleveland, Des Moines, Jacksonville and Phoenix.

That’s why I thought I’d take my research to a broader audience: you!  We would love to hear from anyone that has seen business development incentives established successfully.  What incentives work?  And, what incentives don’t work?  Answers can come from beyond the marketing services field.  We promise to share all the answers we receive in a subsequent blog post so that everyone will have the benefit of this information.

Can you help?  Do you have a war story about incentives?

To reach John:

Phone:  212.840.0444
Email: john@blisspr.com
LinkedIn:  John Bliss