IF YOU ARE NOT ADDING VALUE - OFF YOU TROT
So what does adding value actually look like when it comes to delivering marcomms support? Why have I bolted + after my name? For me, that’s easy to answer.
- Passion – you need to be someone that really cares – I mean A LOT – enough to want to immerse yourself entirely in the client’s business, their sector and all that is going on within it – until you love it. Get properly under the skin – read, listen, watch – anything you can interact with that gives you deeper understanding.
- Perspective – once you have a good working knowledge of the business, you must never go native – you can have a passion for a business, a category and where it has come from – but good comms people always retain fresh eyes, ears and perspective and are prepared to challenge and question. And vitally, you have to understand the context – be it the corporate and how you connect with the diverse audiences it entails in a meaningful way. You are the bridge between the corporate narrative of a business and the external audience environment – don’t under-estimate that role.
- Diverse experiences – don’t forget that there’s a huge amount you can learn and apply from working in different sectors and targeting different audiences. Why should a superb mechanic that worked really well in fast food not work in gaming or entertainment or drinks or vice versa – I find myself doing that all the time and it allows you to build creative momentum and excitement in the knowledge that something has maybe been tested in some shape or form in another sector or category. So don’t be too sector specific and blinkered – there’s lots of principles. insights and strengths you can apply in other places.
- Daily understanding – be mature and hone your radar and understanding of what a client has on their own personal plate – their time pressures, their budget, personal, and internal stakeholder pressure points. It’s so important if you are ever going to get into their flow, their good, their bad, their vibe. I’ve spoken with so many senior in-house PRs and clients over the years and the best ones always tell you that very few agencies get this bit right. So try to cut the client a bit of slack. Clients have shit days too and it’s our job to try to figure out what it is that might be affecting their abilities to for example, come back to you or deliver on something you are waiting for. Think about what you might be able to do to help them. Get this right and your relationship will flourish.
- Surprise surprise – if you care enough to really get under the skin of a business, why stop actively thinking about them? There’s nothing I love more than ringing up a client and saying: “I was thinking about you and a really interesting idea came up and I wanted to share it.” They don’t have to take you up on it – but they will love the fact that you are thinking about them and that you care enough. Isn’t that the job right there?
- Creativity – let’s not bore on about the process of how you do it. It’s really about bravery and knowing how to excite and inspire an individual, a team or a business to consider a bold, new or different way of delivering a message. So many business are tied to internal expectations about ways of doing things that they can sometimes reject fresh or bold thinking. I worked for many years with a client who was very nervous about about attracting attention to his division, but we worked together to understand the pressures and risks and the best way for him to get our ideas across. He became the ideas HQ pretty rapidly. You must consider how an idea is articulated to different elements of any business and across its varied stakeholders – even to the point of recognising that there will inevitably be different levels of knowledge or understanding about what you do amongst different groups or individuals. So what about your client’s boss, your client’s boss’s boss, the Board, the employees? Do the groundwork, prepare and rehearse it and the potential responses, if you are passionate about selling an idea to a business.
- Tenacity – you need an engine that runs and runs – tenacity to the point where if something isn’t landing the way you want it to – you fight, you rethink or re-engineer and then you fight some more – make it happen. I remember winning a piece of business many years ago and the client said when he rang to congratulate us: “Everyone in the pitch room agreed that you were the type of team that when we weren’t around, would keep arguing, challenging and pushing each other.” They were so right.
- Pragmatism – actually I’ve saved one of the most important points till last – pragmatism is a frequently under-rated thing – don’t be rigid and never be precious. You can retain your perspective and position, but it’s your job to listen and learn and take people with you.
That’s not the full story, but if you set out in what you do with those kinds of ambitions in your make-up, you will be on your way to adding real value. Maybe to some it sounds like a simple description of how any agency should work. In truth, it should indeed work like that, but it very often doesn’t sadly. Whether you are a freelance or a staffer in an agency, what a way to start your everyday – “Now, how am I going to add value today?”