Keep Your Clients Close & Non-Communications Folks Closer

It has been said that you are best to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In marketing communications, a truer phrase might be to keep your primary clients close and those who are not directly involved in the advertising/communications process closer.

You see, a lot of agencies like to keep clients who aren’t in the communications department at arm’s length. They fear that, since they aren’t as familiar with what we do, they will somehow get in the way, or make things more difficult.

But keeping close to those folks is really the best way to make sure that you develop a great creative product and have the best chance of everyone rallying behind it to ensure success.

Image of ugly baby from Flickr's AntToeKnee Lacey

It’s tough to call your own baby ugly

By involving “non-communications” team members in the process, you give them a chance to provide information and expertise. And when you use their information and guidance, the ad/communication becomes theirs, too. They have a sense of ownership. And it’s a whole lot tougher to criticize something that you own versus something that was created without your input.

The more eyes, the more ayes

Pulling in additional team members also means that you have more eyes on the matter. You get richer content to work with, and you have subject matter experts to give you the proper guidance on how to phrase things and what to show. And you have another set of eyes/ears to look for inconsistencies and potential errors.

So that’s how they do it

Because the creative process is often a mystery for folks who aren’t directly involved, participating in the process also gives them an appreciation for how things happen. They learn as much about what does work as about what doesn’t when translating a business issue to communications.

Image representing client connections

There have been numerous times when we have asked non-communications team members to join us for a shoot and they are amazed at the amount of planning, staging and detail that goes into every shot. Many of them have no idea how much work goes into producing a commercial—especially a larger-budget production—and that it’s actually a lot more complicated than shooting a video on your phone.

In these instances, they not only see why something was done the way it was, but gain a much greater appreciation for the entire production process.

Collaboration is key

I’ve worked in agencies where it was the account team’s primary role at a shoot to keep the client (especially the non-communications clients) away from the creative team.

At re:group, we know that success means that valuable input comes from everyone and anyone, and that keeping people apart has absolutely no benefit for a collaborative process. So, we don’t create artificial boundaries. We encourage observations, input and collaboration from everyone. And that means that, if a subject matter expert notices something on set or has a thought about how to improve a scene, we all listen—both the account and creative teams.

Touch points for success

So, exactly when and where should the non-communications team members be involved in the process? Here are a few of the best places:

  • Idea Brainstorming: What are the new initiatives within their areas of expertise that we will want to make the customer aware of?
  • Messaging input: What interesting facts or background info is available to inform the creative process?
  • Concept testing: Attending focus groups to hear what customers say or how they react to the initiative or the messaging can help everyone understand the level of relevance, believability and importance in the customers’ lives. Just because we live the topic every day doesn’t mean that customers want to hear about it or care about it.
  • Production: Being on set is a great learning experience and gives the person a first-hand view of what is being produced. If they are engaged and involved in the production, they will be more likely to be advocates when the final piece is presented to others.
  • Final review: Make sure they see the final product before it’s shown to the masses. They were involved in every step of the process and deserve to see it before others do. Plus, it ensures that they are not blindsided by questions or comments from others.

Keep your friends and your allies close

So, if you really want to make a difference in your client relationships and your creative product, start thinking about folks beyond the client communications team as your best friends and allies. And they will return the favor.

Photo Credit: Flickr’s AntToeKnee Lacey

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