There’s an interesting debate in PR Week’s “Gloves Off” column this week. Two agency CEOs dispute whether senior executives should spend most of their time serving clients or focusing their efforts on other agency responsibilities.
Monty Hagler, CEO of RLF Communications, feels that agencies need to depend more on their dedicated account teams to handle the bulk of the work. He feels that these teams are seasoned and should be responsible for providing strategy, creativity, execution of programs… and results. Monty feels that senior folks should focus on bigger picture stuff like quality control processes and enhancing agency resources, because by raising the bar in those areas, clients across the board will receive more value and better results.
Amy Binder, CEO of RF Binder, argues the opposite. Her reasoning suggests that with the advance of all new factors (like social media and everything digital), we need to give our clients senior level thinking all the time to navigate through the challenges and take advantage of opportunities. That means senior level professionals need to be a dedicated part of each account team.
While this issue isn’t black and white and both of these smart leaders make good points, I tend to agree with Amy. In fact conceptually, her thinking is pretty much the way Peppercom was built 16 years ago (before this digital landscape even mattered). In any consultative, professional services industry, clients want and need senior level thinking. And, it shouldn’t only be given at a monthly or quarterly update or planning meeting.
The world of communications has indeed changed greatly. Every single day, most companies can leverage or should be concerned about news that swells up in the media/blogosphere about it and/or its competitors. Businesses are adapting new models, changing product lines and just assessing new strategies within their marketplaces quicker than ever before because they now have valuable information at their disposal through a push of the button.
Only very seasoned, senior communications practitioners have the experience to turn data into insightful strategies/approaches that are recommended to clients. That critical thinking is what clients typically want and pay us for. As good as most account teams are in executing programs, they don’t have the wherewithal to offer this value. And, they aren’t at a level where recommendations can be communicated with the conviction that is needed to provide clients with peace of mind.
Monty makes some valid points. The most senior agency people need to also step up to ensure that their firm is always improving resources, ensuring quality control and watching over a host of other critical factors to maintain agency sustainability. But in my eyes, that should never come at the expense of working with clients and our account teams week in and week out, to provide critical direction to their communications efforts. Our industry has a bad reputation for constant client turnover. There’s no doubt in my mind that the major reason why this occurs is because clients aren’t feeling enough love from our industry’s senior level folks. This reality will never change until this key aspect of client service does.