Thursday, 14 May 2015

Don't Give Yourself Fires to Fight

There are a lot of schools of thought about how to work with a client, how to balance the needs of the agency with the needs of the moneymen. And it’s hard to work it out, because there are multiple competing factions within an agency and outside of it amongst the clients – being a skilled broker between these groups is an important part of account handling.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought.

I had a conversation recently that turned these thoughts on their head. Because when you get down to it, the true goal of account handling should never be to be a broker between factions. If you’re good at that, great. But what a good account handler should be is, above all, honest. With both sides of the aisle.

And what that means is being not just conciliatory but steadfast when you need to be. It means being engaged with problems, not just reacting to them. And ideally, it means leading discussions, rather than shutting them down by siding with one person over another.

Advertising isn’t supposed to be a war. It’s about two sides of skilled people looking to solve problems in which they both have a stake. And yes, passions can rise. It’s a personal business, filled with deeply personal work and sensitive personalities. But you have to remember that you’re not on different teams. You’re on the same team, and working towards the same goal.

What you have to prove is that you can pull people together and focus on that goal, and not get stuck in ego trips and personal priorities.

Think about it like this. When you watch a tennis match –

(I know, how middle-class.)

- you quite often see one of the players scrambling around, racing, jumping, stretching to his limits. And you think “what skill that guy has”. But that’s a mistake. Sure, what he’s doing to hold himself together and save points is impressive. But the best players don’t do that most of the time. Because needing to race and jump and stretch is a sign of having let a point get away from you. It’s a sign you weren’t doing the right job in the beginning.

Account handling is about working together. And if you’re constantly scrambling to fix things and fight fires, it’s not a sign of a skilled conciliator. It’s a sign of someone who can’t protect relationships from the start.

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