Avoiding the Superhero Syndrome
You know the feeling. You’re working on a new project and you’re in the zone. Your brain is rapid firing idea after idea; you’re drowning in a deluge of creativity. You’re thinking to yourself, “Wow...this client is doing some amazing work in the community,” or “This campaign is briliant; it’s so cutting-edge, the PR element needs to be over the top…” Especially when you have a new client whom you are trying desperately to impress, it seems that the ideas just keep coming and coming; you’re ready to produce the YouTube video and tie the Twitter campaign to a creative giveaway. PR superhero to the rescue!
Not so fast. Hang your cape back up on its hook.
If you find yourself working on a project and the scope seems to grow in medias res, take the time to solidify the details of your compensation before you continue doing your work. It can be nearly impossible to do for those of us who tend to get inspired and want to just do the good work. But a big part of our jobs as communications professionals, frankly, is communicating these evolving scopes with our clients. Educating the client on how long things take, what steps are involved and how much things cost is all a part of that communications challenge.
Should you find yourself ready to rush to save the day, keep these things in mind first:
Don’t Squeeze: The same way you wouldn’t try to squeeze size 8 thighs into size 2 jeans, don’t try to fit a 2-Year campaign Into a 6-Month Contract. When you do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If your client has limited time and goals that would normally exceed the time frame, let them know that in the future they should plan ahead so that everyone has the time to do a great job. And then let them know what in your professional opinion can be successfully achieved in the time they have left.
Listen Up Front: All clients have a lofty goals and ambitious outcomes they want you to make happen. But most clients also have unrealistic expectations of how long and how much work it will take to get there. When you first sit down with your client, listen to the said and unsaid, and try to decipher what they really want to transpire during your contract. Then figure out on your own what it will take to give them what they want, or if what they want is even a possibility.
Don’t Give Away Ideas. A huge part of our value as public relations and marketing professionals lies in our creativity and ability to think outside of the box. So why would you give that away? When you see a client fishing for you to fill in the blanks with your unpaid genius, steer them back to the contract. Example Script: “Hmm. It seems that multimedia is the direction you are going in at this point. I have experience scripting, editing and producing videos. Should I rework our agreement to integrate that element?”
Police Yourself. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, especially when our little PR hearts start to bleed for a cause. So don’t overwork yourself. Resist the urge to add deliverables, work hours and tasks to your plan without a written amendment to your current contract. While your client may be delighted in your initiative while all of these wonderful new deliverables are getting delivered, they may balk when you bill them for work they never agreed to in writing. Don’t take their excitement as consent to keep on working and billing. Because they are only legally bound to pay you for what’s in the contract.