An agency’s job is to improve client communications—to their customers, vendors and employees—in ways that help clients boost sales, get better service and grow internally. If we’re not making that a priority, we need to change our focus.
We Are in the Communications Business
We spend much time and effort on our primary jobs of brand building and advertising/marketing, so much of our communications is aimed at our clients’ customers. As part of every effort we make on behalf of clients, we should be tracking response to our marketing to make sure what we say is having not just an impact, but the right impact.
We may also be working with the client on internal communications efforts—inward branding, employee training, sales training, lead processing, and so on. Again, tracking and measuring for effectiveness is part of every job. We also need to understand internal audiences as well as we understand customers, so messages are correctly framed and targeted.
It is also important to check on what our communications may be saying that we weren’t aware of…. the hidden, perhaps unintentional messages people may be receiving from our communications. Are the messages we use saying the right thing? What are people remembering from those messages? Do messages need to be adjusted to ensure the right message is the takeaway? Especially with internal messaging, company politics and culture come into play. Agencies helping with internal client messaging must be well versed in how employees and key managers perceive their leadership and the company’s goals as they relate to everyday realities at the company. We’ve seen plenty of examples of mismatched cultures, objectives and messaging in recent years, and the outcomes are not pretty.
Ask the Hard Questions Others May Avoid
Effective communication demands that insights be based on reality. Company leaders’ utopian notions of their internal culture and employee motivators must be corrected before inward marketing can be effective. That can be a tough pill to swallow for most businesses. Think about how difficult it is for your own agency leaders to hear employees are unhappy or question agency leaders’ decisions. Then treble that feeling—most businesses are far larger and more complex than the typical smaller ad agency.
C-suite leaders often are insulated from the mass of their employees. They are focused on big picture and financial goals, and may not be listening as well as needed to concerns within the company. Shareholder demands and expectations may distract leaders from internal communications priorities. Finally, leaders may be told what they want to hear by their middle tier managers, because none of those folks want to rock the boat. Agency partners can help all voices to be heard to make inward marketing more effective.
That takes guts—the confidence that we can see more clearly as outsiders removed from internal politics and culture, and the conviction that we can offer ideas to help. If we play the yes-man role instead of asking the hard questions others avoid, we are not doing our best for clients.
Strong Strategic Thinking Is Essential
All of this client communication needs to be made with clarity of objective, and strategy. If we can’t communicate to the client what we are aiming for, the challenges that currently prevent reaching that goal, the insight that gives us an opening, and the idea that will help us get there… we are failing in our primary mission. Now more than ever, in the uncertain times created by the coronavirus pandemic, clients need clear strategies to move forward.
Take a hard look at how well you communicate with, to and for your clients. Your agency must master the art of communication if you want to grow and lead.