Siddhartha Mukherjee: Fortify PR Agency-Stringer relationship framework

27 Oct,2016

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

With economics and brand communications shifting to smaller cities and towns, agencies are now all the more dependent on grassroot machinery that many refer to as stringers. Almost every industry vertical is moving its focus towards building brand saliency in these markets. Hence, choice and performance evaluation of stringers will need a fresh look.

 

Stringers have been the backbone of the PR Agency industry. Especially for B2C category, client satisfaction is subject to make or break depending on how robust the stringer delivery mechanism is.

 

Let’s take a look at the current versus preferred dynamics:

a. KRAs of Stingers

Current: KRA revolves around services like Event (Press Conference) management, managing editorial coverage through press release dissemination and/or organizing interviews across publications, compilation of news coverage and reporting it back to the agency/ client office, etc. More so, in many cases, stringers work for multi-agencies. Hence, there could be a dearth of exclusivity, ownership and efforts taken towards understanding of the client’s project, value adding back to agency or the client brand.

Desired: Moving away from shared stringer services to exclusive arrangements will not be expensive in the long run. Their ownership towards overall project management will increase and therefore efficiency. Client satisfaction and loyalty will get fortified. They can operate more like a permanent but outsourced dedicated PR Agency.

 

b. KPIs of Stringers

Current: Basic retainer and/or variable component basis count of clips generated by the stringer is what gets accrued for this local outsourced service provider.  While the retainer bit seems to be a clean area, occasional shades of grey start emerging when it comes to the variable component. We have seen both Forced as well as Unconscious misreporting of clip count and compilations getting sent to the PR Agency or the client directly. On reconciliation, not only have we not found the news clip on the actual newspaper broadsheet, but we have also come across cases where news clips are getting reported for dates when the publication was not even printed due to national holiday or some other reason!

Desired:  First and foremost, the agency will need to review and lay down clear SOPs which will guide day-on-day operations of the stringer. Currently, there are none. In fact, in many cases, the agency itself avoids SOPs to be able to partner the stringer on misrepresentation. Secondly, the agency should get the coverage grid reconciled or certified through a third party measurement and audit agency. Third, KPIs should get measured not through the count of clips but through a matrix of quantity and quality. Contrary to many agencies’ belief, the reality is that both the stringer and the agency will stand to gain.

 

While the stringers are the backbone to the efficient working of the Industry, their KRAs and KPIs are also a reflection of how our own thinking and vision for the industry really is. Stringers cannot be used as a  makeshift and tactical third party who can be used on a contractual basis. This gives birth to plenty of scope for unprofessionalism and dark corners. It is time we leverage our existing stringer base to synergize them with the future objectives of the industry.

 

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