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Archive for January, 2010

A sure sign of a strong client relationship is if you find yourself being described as a “good listener”.

It is an attribute to which clients attach great value.

That’s because there’s more to good listening than meets the ear.

Good listening is as much about the culture of the organisation as it is about the personality of the individual.

And on that basis there are some parallels between what it takes to manage agency/client relationships and what it takes to properly embrace social behaviours as a client organisation.

There is a lot more to being a good listener than providing space for another party to speak.

There is a lot more to being a good listener than hearing what another party says.

Really listening has quite profound implications.

Really listening requires several senses.

It’s not just about hearing words, but also picking up on nuances of context, body language and tone.

It’s about appreciating the significance of what is not being said.

Really listening means being prepared to alter your view or your position based on what the other party says.

Really listening means being able to alter your view or your position based on what the other party says.

Able?

As in empowered.

At many agencies the role of the account director is to sell the agency’s work or its point of view.

To return to the agency with the work or the view unsold is deemed failure.

In these circumstances agency processes and agency culture make it impossible to be a good listener.

Because modifying your opinion based on what the other party has said means that the work or the point of view will need to be modified.

Which means failure.

What does this have to do with implementing a social media programme?

Quite a lot actually.

Because fully embracing and successfully implementing such a programme requires, on a corporate level, the attributes of a good listener.

Being a good listener as in being prepared to modify your approach to business based on what these other parties (whom you’ve invited in) are saying to you.

Being a good listener as in being able to modify your approach to business based on what these other parties are saying to you.

Will your business, can your business, change in response to social input from its customers?

Are you culturally, structurally and emotionally ready to accept the consequences of becoming a genuinely social business?

Is yours a people-worthy business?

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90% Tigger, 10% Eeyore.

I reckon that’s about the optimal makeup for a digital agency bod.

I like Tigger’s can-do attitude and his natural willingness to do then learn.

“Mobile apps? Woo hoo! That’s what Tiggers do best!”

“Innovative mash-ups? Oh boy oh boy! That’s what Tiggers do the best!”

In fact whatever suggestion Little Roo throws at him is what Tigger does the best.

Put two or three talented Tiggers together and you can move mountains.

So why not 100% Tigger?

What I like about Eeyore is his indefatigable attitude.

No matter how many times his house of sticks gets knocked or blown down he just shrugs his shoulders and sets about building another one.

The trouble with Eeyore is that he takes no joy in building his house.

He doesn’t set out to build the best house ever.

He doesn’t explore new exciting construction methods.

He just goes through the motions.

When I interview people, Tiggerness is probably the most important attribute I’m looking for.

You can’t fake it.

And I don’t think you can train for it either.

When you look in the mirror what percentage of Tigger and Eeyore do you see?

Image borrowed from ladybugbkt.

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Innocent sent me a letter.

In fact they sent my 5 year old daughter Madeleine a letter.

Actually they sent her two letters.

Madeleine eats loads of vegetables but hasn’t quite got her head round the whole fruit thing just yet.

Innocent Smoothies for kids are the exception to that rule.

And they’ve been running a fridge magnet promotion.

You get three magnets, each with a nicely illustrated letter of the alphabet, in each box.

Madeleine has been collecting them and making words on the magnetic whiteboard in our kitchen.

It’s a great example of what I’d call a “parental guidance” promotion. Kid happy, parents happy.

However, despite having collected nearly 50 letters, she didn’t have the “d” she needed to spell her name.

So I sent a message to Innocent via their Twitter account saying, in the words of a very old ad campaign, that we “could do with a ‘d’.”

And yesterday it arrived.

A letter “d”.

And a nice handwritten letter addressed to Madeleine.

Two letters from Innocent.

They used to say that nothing kills a bad product quicker than a good ad.

I think there’s a similar thing going on with social media, but in reverse.

In that the cream will rise to the top.

Social media don’t make companies good, but they do help good companies to shine.

And organisations that don’t really give a shit about customers will get left behind.

Or, if they adopt social media without sorting themselves out first, they will come a cropper.

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For anyone who bought what I wrote about not selling, this is a more narrowly focused follow-up about the implications of a not selling philosophy for the presentation of ideas to clients.

On the one hand how do you satisfy the pressure from the agency to sell do the idea justice?

And on the other what do you do about your sneaking suspicion that clients have a sneaking suspicion of preamble?

(If the idea’s that good, why does it need all this fluffing? Shouldn’t it sell itself?)

A client of mine once shared an anecdote about a creative presentation he’d attended early in his career.

The main object of that presentation was my client’s boss, a straight-talking American marketing director.

The hapless agency guy launched into some well-prepared, well-rehearsed but alas over-long eulogy for the as yet unshared idea.

After a while the marketing director leaned forward, touched the presenter on the wrist, looked him in the eye and said…

“Son. You’ve made me hard.”

(Dramatic pause).

“Now make me come.”

The hapless account guy in question would have done well to treat his client like a Jedi. As Yoda (allegedly) said…

“Foreplay, cuddling – a Jedi craves not these things.”

Clearly you need to say something about the idea. But what? And, just as importantly, when?

Here are some approaches that have repeatedly worked well for me over the years.

1) Resist the temptation to re-present or summarise the brief. Anyone in the meeting who does not know the brief inside out does not deserve to be there. Going over the brief is safe, head-still-below-the-parapet territory.  It is a crutch for the presenter who is nervous about his or her content and will be seen as such.

The exception to this rule is if the idea has come directly from a specific nugget within the brief. Then it is right and proper to draw the client’s attention to the source of the creative leap that you are about to share with them.

Which leads me onto point 2).

2) Preamble as sales pitch is bad. Preamble as insight into the creative thought process that led to the idea can be good.

To most clients, and to a lot of agency people, the creative process is a fascinating black box. And an occasional peek inside that box can be useful.

This approach is most compellingly utilised by the people that actually did the creative thinking, and for that reason creative people who can construct consecutive sentences, who can maintain eye contact, and who wash are worth their weight in gold.

Discuss how they initially approached the brief √

Share a few blind alleys and creative cul de sacs √

Maybe refer to the bit of the brief that most inspired them √

As well as being interesting, this approach has the added benefits of i) proving that the creatives actually read the brief and ii) hinting at some form of creative quality control process.

3) Articulate the idea.

It is blinding obvious that the whole point of the meeting you’re in is to answer the question in the client’s head – “What’s the big idea?”

But so often you see otherwise intelligent people go into creative presentations without a pre-prepared answer.

They have a script or an ad but not an articulation of the underlying idea.

Well articulated ideas are incredibly powerful.

Aim for under 25 words (an idea that you can hold in your hand as Steven Spielberg would describe it).

Ensure that the brand or product name is central to the definition. You won’t be able to do this unless the brand or product has an active role in the idea. And for this reason an idea definition that has the brand at its core is incredibly reassuring to clients.

And make it exciting and easy to remember.

Being able to articulate your ideas is a basic professional discipline that is easy to overlook.

It also has the practical benefit of making the idea more portable.

It is unfortunate that approval of an idea will often require clients in the room to present it on in your absence to clients not in the room. A properly packaged and defined idea is less prone to misrepresentation and/or misinterpretation.

4) Be prepared to explain why this is such a good idea.

Hopefully this will be intuitively obvious to all concerned, but life is not always like that.

I’d aim to keep this powder dry until after you’ve presented the idea. Hopefully you won’t need it.

5) Be prepared to explain how this idea will work.

This is a killer. It’s a disarmingly innocent question that I’ve seen pull the rug out from under many creative presentations. It doesn’t get asked that often but if you purport to be a communication expert your client has every right to expect a robust answer.

Just how will this idea work to help me achieve my objectives?

And “Because it’s funny” ain’t going to cut it.

6) Don’t leave the agency without an idea that you believe in.

This is the main thing and everything else flows from it. Do your hardest work and take the greatest pain within the agency. Do whatever it takes to make sure that you are genuinely excited about the idea(s) that you’re going to present. That excitement should automatically translate into the professional disciplines described above.

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