How to Successfully Manage Large Federal Contracts
By Jill Fisher, Senior Vice President
Managing a large federal contract can be a challenging experience, but it can also be extremely rewarding if you deliver results. The Hannon Group has successfully managed multiple, large federal contracts and, as a result, our management team has gained a thorough understanding of the requirements for delivering excellent performance on large contracts.
While there will always a be unexpected issues that pop up, the following five strategies will enable your organization to effectively administer large government contracts:
1. Make Sure that Staff are a Great Fit
In my mind, staff quality is the primary factor in determining whether a contract will be successful or not. Staff must be technically qualified and also have a good rapport with clients. Because the quality of the team is so crucial to success, contract managers should ensure that they are hiring the best possible employees for each position.
At The Hannon Group, we take the hiring process very seriously. Many of our contracts support technical sectors such as health and energy, so we need staff who have previously worked in those industries. As a result, we actively recruit many of our staff, as opposed to just placing ads and waiting for resumes. By actively recruiting staff, we have been able to find candidates with the appropriate technical skills AND industry background. As a bonus, recruiting using LinkedIn is actually a lot cheaper than placing an ad on the platform.
2. Provide Excellent Customer Service
Another requirement for achieving customer satisfaction is providing excellent customer service. This includes being courteous to clients, responding as quickly as possible, providing accurate and appropriate information in response to requests, and proactively providing updates and other information that clients may need.
While being courteous and providing the correct information is expected, many clients are not used to receiving a quick response to emails or calls and are pleasantly surprised when they immediately hear back. I’ve been thanked many times for my quick response, which actually always surprises me a bit, since it suggests that other contractors are not that responsive.
Federal clients also appreciate when contractors are proactive in providing status updates and other useful information, as clients are very busy and don’t have the time to make the request. Further, giving clients a heads up on potential issues can also help mitigate or avoid future problems.
3. Pay Attention to Detail
If you’re in charge of a large contract, you’re going to be managing considerable amounts of information, including funding and invoicing amounts, hours and ODC costs, as well as contract numbers and dates. This data must be accurate, as errors could result in overspending, incorrect billing, and other issues that could significantly impact your credibility with clients. Due to these potential problems, it’s critical that you work closely with your accounting and contracting departments, and check and double check any information that you’re entering or distributing.
It’s also a good idea to carefully check written materials to ensure that you’re communicating in a clear and professional manner.
4. Understand Federal Contracting
There are a lot of rules in federal contracting, from event spending regulations to per diem requirements. To avoid causing issues for your contracting officer and your own organization, it’s very important to understand and follow federal contracting regulations. Further, you should thoroughly review your specific federal contracts so that you know what FAR clauses and deliverables pertain to each project.
5. Use Appropriate File Structures and Templates
And finally, no matter how simple and straightforward a project seems, contract administration is bound to get complicated at some point, with multiple modifications, new task orders, or even new contracts issued. That’s why it is critical to properly organize and back up contract files, so that data is easy to find when needed. It is also important to utilize robust templates to track and analyze spending on labor hours and other direct costs. These tracking documents must be updated each month and should be regularly cross-referenced against your accounting or contracting department records.
While it can sometimes be difficult to consistently implement all five of these approaches due to time and resource constraints, it’s definitely worth the extra effort to ensure that you are providing the best possible service for your clients.
For more information on The Hannon Group and our experience supporting federal communications clients, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR
When your campaign is targeting a variety of audiences, including minority populations, it’s not enough to use a general market strategy – you must pivot your strategy to successfully reach specific demographics.
Because of The Hannon Group’s expertise in multi-cultural marketing, we are frequently asked to tailor strategies to reach minority audiences, including African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. One example is our firm’s support for the State of Maryland’s Maryland Health Connection (MHC) enrollment campaign. The campaign was led by award-winning PR agency GMMB and targeted Maryland residents who were uninsured and hard-to-reach. The Hannon Group was specially selected by GMMB to conduct outreach to the African American community to create awareness of MHC and encourage enrollment in an insurance plan by the January 31 deadline.
In pivoting the general market strategy, The Hannon Group identified appropriate partners and tactics, and developed messaging and images that would resonate with Maryland’s African American community. The goal was to maximize the distribution of campaign messages, content, and collateral materials using strategies that would attract, compel, build trust, garner buy-in, and encourage action.
Strategy 1: Pivot Digital/Creative
One of our first steps was to take global objectives and messages and create content and materials that would appeal to African Americans in Maryland. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for partners to engage in the campaign by providing them with creative work that they could plug into their existing communication channels. This included social media content, recommended hashtags and handles, as well as promotional materials.
Strategy 2: Identify and Leverage Partner Networks
While working on digital/creative development, we also began to identify partners, including organizations and influencers. Using four criteria, we were able to determine where the target audience “lived, worked, played, and prayed”. Key pivoting criteria for selecting partners were the following:
- Like-minded or complementary interests
- Existing communication vehicles or events
- Ability to provide sustainable support
- Accessible decision makers
Based on these criteria, we initially selected five partner types – Churches, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Civil Rights Organizations, Black Sororities, and Digital Influencers. We leveraged their communications channels as a central component of our strategy and implemented the following activities:
- HBCU Outreach – The Hannon Group partnered with four HBCUs on this campaign – Coppin State, Bowie State, Morgan State, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. We worked with the universities to incorporate information into the exit process for graduating seniors; use health and career center communications channels; and use student services communications, including on campus media.
- Grassroots Outreach – We worked with the National Urban League and NAACP to engage African American men and women in their 20’s and 30’s who were serving in leadership roles. Our team collaborated with these organizations to determine the best methods for reaching young adults through chapter events and activities.
- Sororities and Healthy Living Groups Outreach – We engaged African American women through partnerships with three sororities (Sigma Gamma Rho, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Delta Sigma Theta), and two girls’ athletic clubs (Girls Run and Girltrek). We asked chapters to post MHC messaging and links on their websites, social media platforms, newsletters, and blogs; incorporate MHC into their trainings and discussions on healthy living; and host or participate in MHC events.
- Influencer/Blogger Outreach – The Hannon Group partnered with Meredith Hurston, the author of the Empowered Mocha Patient blog, as well as Micheline Bowman from Fox 5 News, who organizes a regular event called “Meet me on Mondays”. These influencers led an online campaign to encourage people to enroll in a health insurance program to protect themselves and their families. The team hosted a Periscope with Meredith and one of the MHC navigators and enlisted other Maryland bloggers to promote the interview on their blogs and social media platforms. Micheline hosted a “Meet Me on Mondays” networking event focused on MHC.
- Media Relations – We engaged other types of influencers to conduct media outreach. These included Senator Elijah Cummings and the NAACP, who endorsed the importance of health coverage for Maryland residents by participating in a press conference to kick off the MHC enrollment period.
- Super Health Sunday – Because faith organizations have an interest in the wellness of their congregants, The Hannon Group organized a special statewide event on a single Sunday at 16 African American churches, including six “mega” churches. During the event, these churches provided messages from the pulpit on the importance of health and health insurance. They also hosted meet and greets with MHC navigators and members of each congregation and incorporated ongoing education into church health ministries. In addition, The Hannon Group placed ads in church newsletters promoting Super Health Sunday.
The Hannon Group campaign successfully leveraged partnerships with trusted community leaders and organizations to achieve the desired milestones. Partners distributed collateral materials and promoted key messages through websites, social media, email listservs, and special events. The Super Health Sunday event reached 41,500 in-person attendees and 21,000 more people were reached through live streams, while social media posts for the Periscope and Meet Me Monday event had a combined 323,500 impressions. Through these activities, Maryland achieved one of the fastest growth rates of any state in the country for 2016 enrollment compared to 2015, increasing by 33%, and African American enrollment was up 37%, indicating that the campaign and pivot had been extremely successful.