Why PR time sheets should be scrapped

Why Graham Goodkind, founder of PR consultancy Frank PR, thinks time sheets should be scrapped. 

Nelson Mandela said that “there is nothing more terrifying than to be alone with sheer time”. I feel the same way about being left alone with time sheets.

In my opinion, time sheets are bad news for PR agencies. They go against the grain of most PR people, their results are pretty meaningless, clients don’t like them and perhaps most tellingly, I believe that their use actually inhibits an agency’s ability to make money. Let me explain…

I guess that my perspective on this issue is formed by my belief that in PR we are not selling time, we are selling value. At Frank, that value is in our creativity, the intellectual property we conjure up with our ideas and the results that are forthcoming. I think that clients are not particularly bothered about how long it takes us to do the job as long as we walk the talk and meet or exceed their expectations, targets and objectives. So we’ve ripped up our time sheets. Actually, to tell the truth, we never had them in the first place!

But the industry seems hung up on using time sheets; they are a regular feature in nearly every other PR agency I know. But to this day, I’ve never really come across many PR people who actually like them. They rub me up the wrong way, and I’m sure they do for other perhaps freer spirits in this industry. And there are plenty of us about.

Sure, the financial director and his or her team are big fans of time sheets. They can plug the numbers in and (with hindsight) tell you which client is technically being over-serviced and is therefore unprofitable. They will tell you that you can’t run an agency and make money without having access to this information.

But what they don’t realise is that the information they are basing their judgement on is, how shall I put it, a load of bollocks!

I recently did a quick survey, using the ever faithful Survey Monkey and accelerated round UK PR land via the magic of Twitter. Of the 67 respondents, only 2 had never done time sheets in their agency life (I was one of them by the way).

But the most interesting stat of all was the a staggering 92.4 per cent of respondents admitted that they filled in their time sheets either inaccurately, or incorrectly, or retrospectively, and therefore in such a way that its ability to give an exact representation of time spent was compromised.

So it turns out the finance and HR departments are wasting a fair amount of time too analysing these time sheets and churning out reports for the senior management, who in turn could perhaps better utilise their time spent on dissecting the not very useful results on, wait for it, doing PR for their clients.

Ah yes, what do clients think of time sheets then? Well most I have ever come across prefer not to have them but I used the survey to ask PR folk what they perceived their clients thought. Only 34 per cent said that their clients liked or appreciated the fact that they operated this way. Two thirds of clients are either apathetic or peed off with them.

So time sheets provide largely useless information to agencies that have them, they are counter intuitive to most creative PR people and clients would prefer not to have them.

Pretty good reasons for calling time on them in my book.

Creative Moment Awards 2020