LP&P's CHARM Database
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

LP&P's CHARM Database

This database tracks Contact History, provides Activity Reporting and is home for all Media opportunity activities (thus known as the CHARM database).

Paul Holmes

CHARM is a Lotus Notes database that was created to replace LP&P’s former suite of PR databases.  This database tracks Contact History, provides Activity Reporting and is home for all Media opportunity activities (thus known as the CHARM database).  The CHARM database is the central working place for all LP&P account service teams.  All account specific contact history is stored in CHARM.  All PR activities are tracked in this program.  These activities include Press and Analyst Meetings, Press Tours, Client Meetings, Materials Developed, all Editorial Opportunities and Proactive Outreach.  All resulting coverage is also tracked.  Finally, a new standard Briefing Document feature has been built into CHARM.  The ability to share contact information across the agency as well as having provided a standardized application for storing contact information and recording account activity make CHARM worthy of a SABRE award.
LP&P was faced with a few challenges.  Based on feedback collected during internal PR focus groups, problem areas within account teams were identified as contributing to inefficient account service.  The primary problem identified was the inability of account teams to share contact information efficiently throughout the agency.  Account teams identified the lack of centralized applications and account service practices as also contributing to their problems. LP&P was faced with the challenge of meeting the business needs of account teams.  LP&P had to create a process in which users could access agency contact information.  A standardized and streamlined application to store, track and update contact information was needed.  LP&P was challenged to create a standardized and streamlined application to store and track their PR activity progress.  Finally, LP&P was challenged to produce activity reports based on account team PR activity progress.
Objective #1:  Gather feedback on what a dream contact management application would contain. 
LP&P’s Systems Team held a total of 10 focus groups between February 1999 to April 1999.  From these meetings the Systems Team was able to gather the necessary feedback.
Objective #2:  Gather information from each activity team to understand their tasks and what tools are being used to complete these tasks  (From this, the LP&P Systems group was better able to understand the PR processes of account team members).
Focus group discussions were used to analyze the activities every account team must undergo to accomplish all of their tasks and which also involve a level of generating contact history.  Basically every time someone picks up a phone to make a call, they need to leverage internal contact information to best position themselves to establish and maintain a relationship. 
Everyone was accomplishing the same goals, but using different applications.  A plan was devised which incorporated evaluating all solutions to determine a best practice approach which could be used by everyone to accomplish their tasks.
Objective #3:  Implement a consistent application throughout the agency so sharing information across the agency can be made possible.
Setting up the common technology throughout our teams would also allow us to work in a more consistent and efficient manner.  It was identified that this solution would call for extensive training.
In an attempt roll out CHARM, certain strategic steps had to be followed.  Setting expectations as to what would be delivered and when was the first step.  During Phase I, general profile information was gathered from various contact management databases.  Soon, contact information that existed only in databases throughout the agency was collected.  Phase II involved developing the actual prototype and selecting which PR teams would test it.  The overall plan was to roll CHARM out to the agency in stages.  LP&P’s Burlington, Mass. PR employees were the first users of CHARM.  LP&P’s Austin and San Francisco offices would soon follow. Based on the opinions from the PR teams that were selected to test the prototype, changes were made and redesigning took place.
Each month beginning in April 2000, one to two account teams were introduced to CHARM and trained on the applications.   By December 2000, there were 128 users, 45 teams familiar with the new CHARM process.  In order for CHARM to be successful, it had to be made a requirement for tracking ALL PR activities.  It needed to be pushed from the top down.  It was important in executing this campaign that each team member knew they had to contribute to CHARM.  Incorporating CHARM information in team meetings was also important.  Not only were training sessions conducted, but followup sessions were also held.  A forum for asking questions and forwarding suggestions or complaints was also set up.
Thanks to the research and implementation of CHARM, a new standard has been created within the agency.  Email correspondence regarding contact gathering information has decreased greatly.  Now there is a true knowledge sharing program.  CHARM provides a complete and comprehensive realtime contact information sharing solution.  Today, with consistent employee training, simple account transition helps retention.  Employees transitioning off teams leave their knowledge with the team and their activities are easily delegated.  With the creation of CHARM, the process of “recreating the wheel” has been eliminated.  Now workflow processes are streamlined and the focus is shifted to creative PR efforts.  Today, client activity reports are easier and faster to create.  With CHARM, LP&P’s award winning-extranet “eClips” can also be shared.  Finally, account teams can now post client updates to the LP&P Web site while working directly in CHARM. 
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