Why CEOs Need Peer Groups Like PR Boutiques International & CEO Trust

Just like everyone else, CEOs sometimes need input and support from colleagues. While employees can give excellent counsel as well as support, there are times when a CEO has an issue (s)he only feels comfortable discussing with peers.

Participants at the PR Boutiques International Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

I’m fortunate to belong to two groups of CEOs that are wonderful sources of objective input and advice, as well as encouragement and friendship.   One is CEO Trust, with chapters in New York and Connecticut (so far) that have members in many industries.  The other is PR Boutiques International, a network of independent PR firms that I co-founded four years ago.  There are about 30 small PR companies in the PRBI network (so far).  Both of these growing organizations are special and valuable to me for different reasons.

Those of you who work in larger companies can go to colleagues or bosses for input and support when you want to talk out an important decision or need information about how other companies handle a particular issue.  CEOs, whether they head large or small companies, sometimes just can’t do that.

CEO Trust is a group of CEOs who have joined together to provide friendship and advice to each other.  Because membership is only granted if the executive shares important business values with the group, the members have a lot in common even though they come from different industries and professional backgrounds. This creates a warm, supportive environment.

PR Boutiques International member firms are also vetted very carefully for important business values as well as a high level of professional service.  All provide expert, experienced client service.  We support each other in a myriad of ways: I can tap the resources of an overseas firm on behalf of a client, or bring in a member firm for extra arms and legs on a big project, for local help with an event or with media  relations. We also have a firm owner Google Group where we share ideas, pick each others’ brains and ask for input on issues and challenges we face.

I just returned from a weekend with PRBI firm owners from around the country and the world at the group’s annual meeting in Washington. We talked for two days straight about marketing, selling, client service, better ways to run our agencies, and ways we can work together so that two plus two will equal more than four. We brought in two industry consultants, George Rosenberg and Ken Jacobs, both industry “sages,” to stimulate our thinking, give us new ways to look at our jobs and remind us of easy-to-avoid but crucial agency owner responsibilities.  Here are a few of the words of wisdom they left with us:

  • Satisfying our clients is not sufficient; only superior client service is good enough. An industry survey showed that 75-78 percent of clients who changed agencies last year said they were satisfied. To be consistently successful, we must surpass expectations, deliver the unexpected and take the extra, extra step to wow our clients.
  • “People [you work with] may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
  • When it comes to our services, budget is always a difficult hurdle; a better way to discuss costs is to view them as investment.
  • What clients want to spend is not as relevant as the amount we know it will take to do a good job for them.
  • The definition of a good client: one that respects us, values our work, knows their goals, gives us direct access to the top decision-makers in their organization and can afford to pay us appropriately.

Lucy Siegel

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