Continuous Customer Collaboration

March 30, 2015

RH+M3 has proven over the years that we have great writers and strong editors. We work with some demanding customers who know what they want and won’t approve the publishing of their stories until the voice, framing, style, and content are perfect. But that’s a given in this industry—everyone has tough customers. And because we expect greatness from ourselves, it’s not a problem meeting our customers’ demand for it. The challenge, actually, is to produce great content time after time, and in parallel with other projects. That’s where our strength really shows—we consider our process to be one of the best in the business, and we call it “Continuous Customer Collaboration.”

 

 

In this blog post, I want to share with you a little about our process so that you understand what it means, how it works, and why it’s so effective. I don’t want to give away all of our secret sauce, but I can pull back the curtain enough to reveal some of the high points. Because in addition to our great writers and editors, we have one more leg on the stool—we have great project managers.

First, some background. In our experience, we must be super-flexible. We have to react to events as quickly as we would react to human crises. For example:

 

  • Sometimes, that one subject matter expert you were counting on to nail down an article just can’t make an interview date. Perhaps a sudden eruption in their schedule pushed out the interview for another week.
     

  • Other times, we may be buffeted by current events. A product launch may get pushed back, or moved up. A news event may drive our editorial calendar beyond our control.
     
  • Finally, there is always an element of herding cats when working with creative people who are sticklers for perfection. Sometimes they know what they want and can articulate that vision. Other times, they just know it when they see it. We have to react accordingly.

 

What this all means is that even the strongest project manager has to maintain some flexibility in their approach. And that’s what I was getting to earlier—we have great project managers who know this business. They have experience, and they know their craft. Dates and gates are great, but without some context, they’re just deadlines whooshing by. We stick to our process as much as we can, but we’re working with human beings, and a process cannot always go by the book.

 

How do we do it? We stay in touch with our customers constantly, and that’s the main secret to our success. We call it Continuous Customer Collaboration because we’re always in sync. We start the week with a check-in meeting that gets everyone on the same page. We bring a tracking spreadsheet to the meeting and focus on agenda items. Regardless of how long we’ve known a client and worked with them, we believe that it’s our job to be the most prepared participant in the room. Our tracking spreadsheet is our secret weapon, and it’s our Bible. But many teams use similar tracking tools. That’s not the only piece we rely on to create great content.

 

Another real key, we believe, is that we are continuous in our contacts or “touchpoints.”  We don’t attend a Monday check-in, then sit back and watch team members scrambling every which way. We stay in constant email contact, too. We use our tools continuously, and that doesn’t mean vague, easily-ignored emails that don’t hit a point quickly. We use our customer contacts to truly collaborate, and when an email dialogue looks like it is breaking down, we’ll call a 15-minute meeting to regroup and get everyone back on track.

 

Another part of our experience is making sure that the meetings and subject-matter expert (SME) interviews are recorded. We always use a recording service and get a transcript made after the interview is done, which is fairly common. We also take notes in our progress and status meetings, and we circulate those, too. Our goal is to make sure we are all synced up and truly collaborating.

In future blog posts, I can delve into some of the details, but that covers it from a high level. Maybe you want to know more about the 40 steps we take to go from idea to published words? That’s an entirely different post, and it will take longer to create. For now, just know that we listen to our customers continuously, and we approach each contact with a collaborative spirit. Our customers tell us what content they need, and we plan it, track it, and make it happen, over and over.

 

Looking for an agency that can bring your ideas to life without a lot of drama and hassle?  Contact us. 

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