I was thrilled to sit in on this session at the recent Communications Network conference, and even more pleased to see that participation was evenly split between communications consultants/firms and the foundation staff members who hire them. Devils and angels (lips are sealed on whether the consultants are the devils or the angel) dialogued towards more productive partnership, sharing these guidelines:
These are the top three sources of conflict defined by the group as a whole, to be avoided like the plague!
- Mismatch between budget and goals
- Lack of clear expectations
- Deliverables poorly defined
And here’s what the group outlined as bills of rights for productive partnering:
Client Bill of Rights
- No bait and switch: Deliver what is agreed upon, including the team
- Tell us the budget you need to meet our goals
- Project management skills, including regularly scheduled check-ins, are key
- We’re hiring you for your expertise, and expect that you’ll elevate our campaigns
- Defend, but don’t be defensive (especially with creative)
- Build in flexibility (outlook- and budget-wise)
- We expect candor and honesty, when things are going well and when they aren’t
- Don’t be a yes man (or woman), but know when to back off (e.g. we have to go in a certain direction that you don’t agree with).
Consultant/Firm Bill of Rights
- View us as your partners on setting strategy. That’s how we can do our best work, even though that may include investing in the consultant to set the strategy before you hire for its execution
- Recognize that the client and person who needs the deliverables on the project aren’t the same person
- We depend on you to help us create the right team of stakeholder participants to create outcome you want
- Do-ask, do tell policy: If there are issues in the foundation or environment we should know about, let us in so we can help you address those situations
- Share your budget range so we can accurately frame our proposed approach
- Remember why you hired us: Scope creep can deplete that focus.
The strategy that most resonated with me is developing a pre-nup, in which mutual definitions on deliverables, outcomes and budget are noted. Sounds like a fantastic tool for both client orgs and consultants.
What are your strategies for productive partnering with your communications consultant (or nonprofit clients)? Please share them here.
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