Sometimes in life you are presented with an opportunity that changes the course of your career. After 15 years of working in-house, most recently as Pfizer’s global media relations lead, I’ve found my way back to #AgencyLife. As I start my new job, here are some thoughts about cultivating strong client/agency partnerships.
Navigating complex global organizations to actually get things done
Oftentimes, agency folks get frustrated, given the lengthy client-approval processes, last-minute changes in direction or strategy and 11th-hour requests. Agency partners need to understand that often, it’s not the client’s fault (sometimes it is, but not always!). Especially if your client is a large, global organization.
When you work in-house, getting things done is complicated. These organizations are large, they are matrixed and there is seldom much process or clarity. Clients often play office politics to move projects along and secure approvals. Things can change quickly, so be patient with your clients. While you’re probably wondering what they’re doing all day long, this is most likely their reality.
Partnering effectively with the C-suite
If you’re a lucky agency team that has access to the client’s C-suite, one of the most important things to understand is that an executive’s time is valuable – and very limited. If you’re presenting them with a plan or an opportunity, ensure that you’re not only efficient, but also so well-prepared that you can anticipate any question that you’re bound to be asked. Have answers at the ready.
The C-suite needs to fully understand what the ROI is for their company and themselves, so anticipate their needs and give them the ammunition to make a sound decision based on strategy that achieves their goals.
And be yourself. Let your personality shine through. Be real. Be confident. At the end of the day, don’t forget: members of the C-suite are human like everyone else – even though sometimes it may not feel that way.
Accepting feedback as a gift, rather than a curse
Regardless if you’re on the client or agency side, receiving and acting upon feedback is the best way to better yourself and your team. Even if you disagree with what you’re hearing, look inside yourself and try to find the glimmer of truth. And remember: At the end of the day, perception is reality. Everyone perceives people and situations differently. While someone may say that you’re a good writer, for instance, someone else may completely disagree. It’s all part of being human.
So the next time a colleague doesn’t quite understand why she can’t get her press release or social content approved quickly by her client, or why a client constantly changes direction or decides to make a last-minute strategy change right before you’re about to implement the plan, I’ll be here on the agency side, ready to share the client mindset and help bridge the gap to make agencies better and more valuable partners.
Dean Mastrojohn is SVP integrated media at Y&R PR