Lavinia Cinca, communication professional, Brussels
Reading Loredana’s articles on how to annoy your client or your agency, I haven’t resisted the temptation to write about how to safeguard yourself from becoming the worst account handler. Bearing in mind that due to high personnel mobility (marketing/ communication/ brand directors) long-run relationships with agencies are fading in favour of short-term ones, now, more than ever, business stability and growth have turned into priority objectives for PR and advertising consultancies.
In a nutshell, the account handler represents the interests and mediates the relation between the agency and the client. It is a difficult position and agencies and clients are craving for the best account handler who embodies the perfect mix of personal traits, attitude and knowledge. So, let’s see how you, as an account handler, can win the hearts of both your agency and your client. Following three top advertising practitioners’ presentations I attended, and my own experience, here are the top-three mistakes that you should be aware of:
You do not understand your client’s business. Paul Burns (owner at the Burns Unit and former Training Director and Director of Knowledge at Saatchi & Saatchi) emphasizes that this is one of the most frequently heard complaints from clients. Clients often have the impression that agencies spend little time in grasping the specific of the market and product/ service they are promoting and deliver too general, not tailored PR or advertising solutions. Fortunately, nowadays research is only one click away, so make sure you perform at least an Internet search on the field and on your client’s product/ service. Do not forget to ask your client some basic questions (sometimes overlooked) such as how much the product costs, what market share it has etc. Being passionate about understanding the business also helps in identifying arguments to explain how the success of our strategy will contribute to achieving clients’ marketing and sales objectives.
You fail to manage the relation with the team within your agency. Steve Greensted (Director at The Greensted Consultancy London) warns: “Creative wins clients. Account handlers lose them”. There are many examples of failures caused by an awkward relationship between the account handler and the team. According to Greensted, account handlers tend sometimes to act “as if they knew it all”, interfering too much with the creative team’s work. Also, they might fail to communicate to the team important details related to budget and time constraints or make crucial decisions without requesting a qualified opinion. So, hold back from being the weak link between the client and the agency! Inform your creative team about the status of the project on time and ask for their thoughts about the changes your client suggests in order to avoid committing to unrealistic targets.
You do not build a strong relationship with your client. Micky Denehy (Advertising and Marketing Consultant at The Denehy Partnership and former EMEA marketing director at Saatchi & Saatchi), when talking about 2012 London Olympics pitch, highlights the importance of creating and maintaining positive relationships with your client. Not only do clients want to work with creative and efficient agencies, but also with people they like. A sound relationship is based on being polite, diplomatic and honest especially when telling your client that he is wrong. However, you should never challenge your client. “Listen and help that person see why you are sure you are right” Greensted says. Communicate on a regular basis and deliver status reports, be transparent with your client, respect deadlines, meet expectations and you will be trusted.
After all, when assessing your next steps, Greensted advises to always ask yourself: Who is your most important Client? Is it your client? Is it your agency management? Or is it the creative team? Remember, in order to be “simply the best”, just be wise, balance interests of all sides and you will win pitches helping you to nurture long-term relationships with your client, colleagues and employer.
What do you think? Are there some other top tips to become the best account handler?
Lavinia Cinca is a communication professional living and working in Brussels. She spent the early years of her career in the Romanian Association of Public Relations and continued in the PR department of Enel, in several consultancies and in the press unit of the Committee of the Regions (Belgium). She presented research papers on communication topics at international conferences and has been awarded prizes in national or European competitions. Her expertise includes branding, corporate social responsibility campaigns, international media relations, training or event management. You can follow her on Twitter @laviniacinca and LinkedIN or read her posts on Travel Moments in Time.
On PRwave, Lavinia Cinca also wrote: