The Digital Ties That Bind

Twenty years ago, the PR business relied on typewriters and carbon paper.

Twenty years ago, the PR business relied on typewriters and carbon paper. When clients needed press releases "right away," that meant deliver the release to the post office that day. When Federal Express and other overnight services took hold, "right away" evolved into finish it today and get it there by morning. Next came fax machines, which sped the process even further, and finally e-mail, which means get the work to the client instantly.

Now its possible to bring clients even closer. Developing a digital strategy that allows you to collaborate with clients to streamline project time frames and improve quality is your best bet for developing long-term client relationships.

Extranets—digital workplaces that integrate clients businesses into your own using the Net and digital technology—give clients real-time access to your business and create a tight digital connection between you and your business partners.

Through extranets, business partners can share and collaborate on documents and deliverables—even financial and budget information. A boon to productivity, shared work environments compress project time frames by removing back-and-forth communication; approvals are instant. And since the client has participated in the creation of the deliverable, its quality is virtually inherent.

The most significant reason to pursue a digital strategy is client loyalty. By embracing the client as part of your business, a true partnership develops—one in which you have a shared stake in the success of each others business. Your business becomes the clients, the clients business yours. Suddenly, your competition has lost all claim to your clients. And as new models of client partnerships emerge, so too will new definitions of payment, compensation and greater opportunities for innovation.

The digital future of partnering, now only beginning to unfold, is a bright one—and one in which your organization cant afford not to invest.

Paul McKeon is the chief e-business officer of New York-based PR firm Ketchum Inc. Comments on this column can be sent to [email protected]