How to win friends and influence people in the creative department (when you aren't in it).
Being an account manager is a tough job.
You have to worry about budgets and deadlines, demanding clients that don’t understand boundaries, and a creative team that can be unhelpful, slow and often just plain difficult.
Unfortunately this all comes with the territory, but as you grow and gain experience it all gets a bit easier. When I was just such a account manager I saw highly experienced client services staff come to blows with the creative team on a daily basis while other team members managed to get on with them like a house on fire.
So we asked a number of brilliant creatives to get their views as to what it takes to be the account manager that everyone wants to work with! Here is what they said…
1. Take a moment to see it from their point of view. Imagine yourself as a copywriter or designer for a day. In some cases you may work on 4 or 5 clients at a time, all with deadlines looming or long gone. You are handed an incomplete brief that you can’t make sense of and find out that the project is due by the end of the week, but you have only been assigned three hours to complete it. You know that one hour will be spent arguing over the brief and another hour will be spent taking in client amends.
Not a great starting point, is it?
2. Respect them enough to give them a complete brief. Don’t rush through it trying to do as little as possible. You might be extremely busy, but it’s worth remembering that the creative team doesn’t know the client like you do. If you took the client brief yourself, then a clear brief is even more important. Run the brief past a colleague or even the client before sending it to the creative team if you are unsure. If you’re still stuck, tell the creative director, they are often able to help.
The creative team can only work as well as it is allowed to. Everyone in the team was hired for their skills, so trust that they can do what needs to be done, but empower them to do it by giving them the information they need – preferably in a condensed, concise fashion, with the problem clearly defined.
More time and effort upfront = less pain and tears afterwards.
3. Warn them of approaching deadlines, but don’t hound them. As soon as you know a project is coming up, warn the team – even there’s no brief yet. This helps the team to see what’s coming and plan appropriately.
Remember however that what’s important and urgent to you, is not always to them. They probably have three other projects that are due at the same time as yours. If you are worried that they may not get it to in time, offer to talk to other client handlers who waiting on work from the team, perhaps some deadlines can be pushed back or another compromise reached. But NEVER go directly to their boss to complain without speaking to them first, especially not if their project is not even late yet.
4. Compliment them on good work. You may become so used to the work that your agency’s creative team delivers that you no longer appreciate what goes into it. Coming up with ideas isn’t easy, nor is presenting them in a way that is appealing, relevant and on-brand, and creatives can often be their own worst critics. Let them know that you appreciate all their hard work.
Even if what they have presented isn’t quite right yet, point out what is working and make suggestions about how that can be replicated. It takes courage to share what you have written or designed, and when all you ever get is criticism, its easy to get discouraged.
5. Don’t be afraid to put them in front of clients. Facilitating this direct contact will show the creative team that you trust them, and can help your client feel more involved in the process. Clients often love being involved and are happy to see scamps and work progress.
Getting the creative team to present their ideas back and work directly with the client on any changes makes them accountable for the work they do and should cut down on the hours you need to put into managing the project.
6. Let them know that you are in it together. Designers often have to work overtime to meet deadlines due to delays in content approval etc. Just letting them know that you know they are going the extra mile, and that you appreciate it, will help win them over. Even better would be a commitment to work out how to prevent them from having to do so next time.
7. Understand that they are human and sometimes have bad days. We all get tired and stressed and have days where what we produce isn’t our best. Unfortunately for the creative team, they aren’t allowed to let their work suffer on these days. If you spot a creative struggling or taking longer than usually would to complete something, give them a kind word and some encouragement, buy them a treat or just offer to make them a cup of tea.
If in doubt, the best thing to do to treat them the way you would like to be treated.
Are you in the creative team? If so, tell us how your client services colleagues can make your job a bit easier by leaving a comment in the box below.
Coming soon…. How to win friends and influence people in client services (when you aren’t in it)