Regardless of whether you’re currently in a leadership position or working your way up, you’ve most likely gotten a sense of how the folks on your PR team tend to rank. Residing at the top tier are the high-performers who are totally invested in the task at hand. In the mid-range, there are those performers who comply with all requests and responsibilities, while not necessarily striving to over-deliver. Below that is where we find the team members who routinely under-deliver, yet continuously have an excuse or justification for exemption and continuously manage to skate by.

While there certainly are myriad reasons why individuals fall within their respective category, there is actually one very specific characteristic that is a fantastic indicator of employee performance, and is also extremely coachable from a PR management perspective: Accountability.

So how does a leader go about developing an environment of accountability within their PR team? According to an article on Bizjournals.com, high performers are accountable by nature and spend time actively thinking of ways to improve. Conversely, average performers spend less time reflecting on their work and tend to perceive critiques of their work as negative.

Average performers need added encouragement of “owning” their work. Management can facilitate this by holding recurring team brainstorming sessions – this nourishes the potential within average and less-than-average employees, as studies show employees will instinctively work harder when they feel they’re being heard.

As an example, one PR firm holds a monthly “meeting of the minds” wherein the entire team meets for lunch and discusses a pre-determined topic. Each PR executive is encouraged to speak to that topic and brainstorm ways to improve agency procedures and strategies. This fosters a team mentality of accountability, as well as an environment where these PR professionals feel heard and appreciated.

On a similar note, an Ozprinciple.com article states that only 24% of people can link their work / tasks to the key results of an organization. That directly impacts individual performance – if an employee doesn’t feel that their work has any real or direct impact, why should they care if their work is up to par?

It’s up to leadership to help PR team members see the link between their effort and overall results, so they can feel good about the work and remain motivated. For instance, a team member may be disinterested in learning the new media relations software until they understand how it can streamline reporting and generate more media coverage.

Additionally, management should never miss out on opportunities to celebrate great performance. When average workers see that talent and hard work are indeed rewarded, there is a natural inclination towards improvement. Conversely, leaders should also ensure that they’re not missing out on opportunities to coach their employees. Investing in human capital is absolutely paramount to growing a strong PR team, and this can be tackled without becoming the dreaded “micro-manager.”  

(One of my favorite hypothetical work scenarios goes something like this: CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?” CEO replies to CFO: “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”)

Obviously visibility is a key component here. Who's the star pitcher on the team - and whose pitches are going ignored? Who's great with clients? Who excels at builidng media relationships? Who spends too many hours on campaigns that don't perform? You may have a good idea of the answers already, but the best coaching map comes from data.

Use PR software to find out who's doing what, how well and how fast, and you'll immediately spot a few surprises. Maybe you can reallocate responsibilities to highlight one team member's strengths, while spending more time coaching an underperformer. Team efficiency is a central part of public relations management and data is the fastest way to a more efficient, high-performing team.

The concept is simple: Helping PR employees perform at an optimal, accountable level will help the agency profits perform optimally as well. Take a look at your team today and discover how you can turn average performers and underperformers into stars. The brands you represent will feel the difference - and so will you.

Topics: PR Best Practices Reporting Measurement PR Performance Team Management Young PR Pros