Perhaps because our company started out in public relations – even though that hasn’t been what we do for more than 15 years – we’re noticing a familiar pattern with some of the chatter on LinkedIn.
It goes like this: Don’t work with people in the C-suite that don’t value what you do!
We tend to associate this thinking with PR because a) it used to be our business; and b) PR is the type of industry that’s always getting challenged in terms of its value, and that sometimes means skepticism from the C-suite.
But this can apply to a lot of industries, especially those in and around communication. As a marketing content company, we get challenged in this way as well. It’s hard to maintain ongoing client relationships when the client’s top executives aren’t sold on your value.
That said, we notice something in the tone of this chatter that bothers us. What bothers us is the idea that, if company leaders don’t have an inherent appreciation of your importance, they’re the problem and you should avoid dealing with them. Perhaps this is unsurprising in an industry like marketing communication, which largely consists of people who are creatives first and business people second. It comes naturally to them to write, or design, or take pictures, or illustrate, or animate. It doesn’t come as naturally to quantify and present the business value of their creative output.
Sometimes that leads people to think the following about the service they provide: You either get the value of this or you don’t!
If you’re one of the people who thinks that way about what you do, we implore you: Stop thinking that way – because it doesn’t help you. You’ll do yourself and your clients a lot of good if you do the hard work of identifying – and learning to present – the business value of your service.
And we’re not just talking about theoretical formulas. We’re talking about results. We’re talking about showing the client the return on investment. How will the feature story in the trade publication lead to increased sales? Maybe you can’t prove it, but at least you can present a plausible path for how you get from the one to the other. The same is true of the upgraded web site, or the new logo, or the weekly blog posts shared on social media.
If the CEO isn’t sold on the inherent value of “it keeps you top of mind” or “it builds your brand equity” or “it comes with implied credibility,” that’s because the CEO needs to see a plausible path to ROI. It’s not unreasonable that he or she asks you to show how that path works – or at least how you think it works.
It’s not up to the client to “just get it.” It’s up to you to show how it happens. It’s up to you to show how your creative work will influence people to do the things that bring revenue back to your client. And if you aren’t sure, then you need to put more work into understanding the business value of what you do.
It’s hard work. It will probably be frustrating. But if a manufacturer has to show his or her client why the part being made will enhance the value of the end product, why shouldn’t you have to show your client why your creative output will do the same for them?
Creative talent is a great thing to have, and it’s a cool and fun way to make a living. But if you expect people to pay for it, then you have to learn to understand your own ROI proposition, and how to explain it to clients in ways that will make sense to them.
It’s not their job to get it. It’s your job to show it. If you don’t do that – or don’t think you should have to – then they’re the ones who are doing the right thing by moving on from you.