Life isn’t easy as an account manager in a marketing firm. Acting as the go-between trying to mediate between clients and creatives can leave you feeling a bit like James Dean, here.
Client says one thing, creative says another. The client mulls over an idea for months and then suddenly decides they need it by the end of the week, leaving you to break the bad news to the art department or the overworked copywriters. These scenarios probably sound familiar.
But these tensions are an opportunity for you to shine. You can inspire your team, set your client’s expectations, pull in external resources (ahem, like Articulate - yes, we love working with other agencies) and help to deliver the job on time and with everyone’s egos intact. You’re the gatekeeper of great content.
Stressful as it is, with the right approach you can avoid the hassle and the headaches and be mediating like a Jedi master within no time.
To begin at the beginning
Introduce client and creator, whether in-house or external, and get them together in a meeting from the very start, even as the client is developing their objectives, so everyone’s on the same page from the get-go. Everything’s rosy at the start so that’s the best time to deal with potential problems. Reduce risk with a pre-mortem.
If you can’t organise a meeting, try to at least provide the creative with some email threads and minutes that show the client’s thought process behind the project. This kind of context helps people understand seemingly arbitrary decisions.
Having the client and the creative only meet when something actually needs doing, or not at all, can result in the content missing the mark and having to be reworked. Although this isn’t anything a good brief can’t solve.
Excellent content and a fast turnaround depend on a good brief. You need to be sure about what the client wants, when they want it and how they want it, and convey that to the creative clearly.
That’s not to say, however, that the brief should state explicitly what the creative has to do; it should just be sure of its aims and whom it wants to reach, otherwise the creator is just running blind and is far less likely to realise what the client had in mind.
Practically, this means providing the creatives with the client’s existing collateral, house style guides and buyer personas, alongside the brief, to keep the tone and messaging of the content on the right course.
Half-baked ideas and flimsy timescales create nothing but a lot of unnecessary rework and frustration when the creative is suddenly expected to write War and Peace by Wednesday. As I’ve said before, realistic and definite deadlines are necessary but they’re no replacement for good planning.
Knowing me, knowing you
As an agency, it helps having a good mix of in-house talent and external content creation partners, whether freelancers or other specialist agencies, each with their own particular skills.
This not only makes you much more flexible as an agency, but it also helps you to create client and creative couplings that gel, rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, making everyone’s life a little bit easier.
You may not be able to predict when your client’s deadline crises will occur but you can prepare for them. Building that creative team before you put it to the test is essential. Find trusted suppliers, contractors and employees before you need them. Test your communication systems in advance. Meet them when the heat is off so you understand them better when the kitchen gets hot. Better to be Ferran Adria – cool, calm and collected – than Gordon Ramsey.
All in the same boat
Finally, obvious, but frequently forgotten, remember that everyone – you, the client and the creative – is working toward the same goal: generating great content that attracts customers and makes everyone look good.
This should be an egoless business – no point scoring, no hissy fits, no grudges. Sure, frustrating, stupid mistakes will be made, but everyone’s human. Ego-less feedback is essential
And this is the key to mediation enlightenment. Building long-term relationships with clients and external content creative agencies means that everyone gets a feel for each other’s tics, foibles and working practices, making the whole process a lot less painless and your job a whole lot simpler.