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How Can PR Agencies Collar the Dreaded Scope Creep?

Jun 7, 2012

Those of you in PR know how it happens.

First, Joe Client wants to have an extra meeting that ends up lasting almost two hours.  Then, Joe asks you to write some extra blog posts. And then, Joe says pages 2-3 of the whitepaper need to be rewritten – for the seventh time. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar…

Suddenly you step back with the AD and AE and take a close look at the body of work your team has produced for Joe Client’s project – one you all thought had been quite well-defined when the contract was written up and signed – (and that is on top of the “freebies” that make up 15 percent of it).

That’s right. You’ve been jacked by the Scope Creep.

Working in the PR industry matter, is kind of like running a gauntlet of obstacles that must be surmounted if our firms are to avoid “scope creep,” that occurrence when a particular project grows, little by little, far beyond its originally agreed-on scope. Of course, scope creep doesn’t just happen at PR agencies. Almost any service industry can suffer from this:  think law firms,  IT professionals, construction managers, architects and other service providers regularly face the particular agonies caused by clients who keep adding tasks to a project without increasing the budget.

So is it possible for an agency or project leader to be firm on keeping a project within the confines of its original scope without alienating the client? Is it true that the client is always right?

Yes and no.

Our clients hire us for a reason. They hire us for our ability to develop and implement creative, innovative and effective communications and public relations campaigns that increase their visibility. They hire us for our ability to fill a wide range of roles, from event planner to copywriter to babysitter and beyond. They hire us because, when it comes to getting their brands in front of as many eyeballs as possible, we know what we’re doing.

To be sure, we want the client to be happy with our work and we want to have a good working relationship. And we can accomplish that without having to lock horns. The trick is to carefully consider what the client is asking for – beyond the original agreement – to see if it qualifies as scope creep or if it’s a small courtesy that doesn’t take up too much time. We need to be vigilant but not “creep paranoid.”

Let’s not forget, our clients have businesses of their own. At some point, I’m sure, the Scope Creep has jacked them, too. We can work together to keep him under arrest.

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