The Devil is in the detail

April 13, 2008

My least favourite part of the job is writing contact reports. They are dull, pedantic and hugely annoying – however, they are pretty handy documents to have, so a necessary evil….I guess.

After many unsuccessful reports, I think I’ve come up with a few tips which should help ease the pain.

1.       Write notes on the agenda – short, concise and right next to the item on the agenda it corresponds to

2.       Write notes  in pencil – if like me you have messy handwriting, then it’s much easier to work out what the Hell you were trying to write if it is in pencil

3.       Read the ongoing status report (if you have one) and work from that as your basis

4.       Don’t go more than 24 hours following the meeting before writing it

5.       If you don’t catch something, make a note and then ask a colleague immediately after the meeting once the client has left

6.       Don’t daydream. As the junior member of the team you probably won’t be making too much of a noise during the meeting, so try to stick with it all the way

7.       Drink a cup of coffee directly before and after the meeting. Having one during the meeting leaves you open to missing a bit of crucial information. Not to mention providing the opportunity for you to pour coffee on someone’s lap……

8.       Ask to look at your colleague’s notes. They shouldn’t mind as in the end, it will save them time

9.        Allow yourself to become comfortable with using the phrase “action it”

10.   Proof, proof, proof, proof, proof. I actually don’t think there is anything more annoying than pouring that much effort into such a bland document only to have it fall at the final hurdle because of a typo. Annoying.

Pretty obvious really, but I wish someone had told me them 18 months ago!

Do all these things and you should have an air-tight report which you can happily send to your client.

I say ‘should’ because I am still waiting to write the perfect contact report. I’ve come close on a few occasions, but no cigar. My fascination with doing the perfect one has seen me ask a LOT of people if they have ever produced a contact report which never needed to be reviewed.

I take comfort in the fact that I am still asking.

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6 Responses to “The Devil is in the detail”

  1. David Child Says:

    May I offer one extra tip? Take a laptop in with you and write up the contact report while you’re in the meeting. Make your notes against each of the points that way they’re pretty much typed up by the time the meeting is over.

    We ask clients if they’re happy for us to bring in a laptop – and not one has refused. Saves you time and therefore means you’ve got more to spend on actually securing the coverage they pay you for.

    Best of luck with them and remember, as an exec contact reports and cuttings files are two of the most important things your client is looking for – making you a crucial part of the team.

  2. Tom Says:

    This is sound and practical advice. Something i feel there should be more of on PR blogs. I may have to set my own up:)

  3. Michael Says:

    I’m always pleased that I have account managers to do all this for me. My note taking stretches from the non-exsistent to reams of notes – never anything in between. I’ve found that contact reports are one of the best things to use – someone else makes them and I can crib from them and make sure that all the points are actioned appropriates

  4. James Gilheany Says:

    I dream of one day having that luxury.

  5. Fiona Says:

    By any chance do you have any good tips regarding case study drafting? Any tips would be really helpful since I am a learner!

  6. James Gilheany Says:

    Get someone else to write them…..

    No, maybe that is an good idea for another post – check back after the weekend.


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