Monday, September 22, 2014
COACHING THE AGENCY – WHEN IT’S TIME TO SHUT-UP
One of the situations we seem to encounter frequently is the client “educating” its agency personnel about what is “wrong” with some of work presented by the creative team. However, one of the best practices for coaching is NOT TO TALK ABOUT EACH AND EVERY AGENCY SUBMISSION! Yet whenever we share this practice clients voice disbelief about our advice “not to talk about each agency submission and trying to ‘educate’ them about what is wrong or what you don’t like.” When clients ask for the umpteenth time “Shouldn’t we address each submission (idea)?” our reply is “no, no, no.” Actually it is NO! NO! NO!
While we share proven principles, best practices and quality processes in all of our work each of you has to decide what to adopt and what to ignore. But we’d like to share the reasoning behind why it is not a good practice to talk about each and every submission to let the agency know why you are not choosing a particular idea or ideas:
1) First, the agency should be sharing several submissions (i.e., Campaign Ideas!) not merely a couple or a few. To have everyone present talk about all 7 - 9 would be very time consuming and dilute the focus of where you want them to work. Talking about each and every idea is what we refer to as an energy drain, undermining the full force of our direction regarding the work that needs to be done.
2) The mindset that engages in telling the agency why you have not selected certain ideas is not one of seeing the glass half full and devoting your comments to filling it. Instead, in practice it’s seeing the glass half empty and telling the agency what doesn’t work (which, is more like what you don’t like) and basically what they did incorrectly (wrong, poorly – how would you see it if you were the one who created the idea?). That’s not “add-valuating” to make the work more productive. That’s “evaluating,” which lays blame at the foot of the agency.
3) We use a tissue meeting to generate a plethora of ideas that enables us to collaborate in idea work versus stand as judge and jury over the work. The purpose of the tissue meeting is not to kill ideas but to advance ideas that you believe have potential. Oh certainly, those ideas that you don’t talk about are on the cutting room floor but you did not kill them. You merely decided to take others forward and let these you did not choose for further work or consideration die a natural death.
4) Sharing “why” you have chosen to progress with certain ideas creates an implicit contrast with those that were not selected. You merely didn’t make the shortcomings of the others explicit. The agency will understand where the others fall short. If they don’t agree with you they will ask you why you didn’t choose a specific idea or ideas. Then it is your duty to address them, in a productive manner.
5) It helps make the meeting productive. If you talk about why a particular Campaign Idea doesn’t work the agency’s (and specific agency’s creative who developed it) natural reaction may be to explain to you why they did what they did, which could evolve into an opposing discussion rather than a dialogue. By the way if they don’t agree with you they will label you as not appreciating their work, being close-minded, not listening, the labeling goes on. Just as clients label agency personnel, they do the same to clients.
6) Your role is not to educate the agency. To “educate” suggests an air of superiority. In fact, most agency personnel outclass client marketers when it comes to marketing communications. Agency personnel have a natural predisposition (and talent) for marketing communications. That’s why they enter the field. Additionally, it’s basically the focus of all their work so they get considerably more practice and experience. So, they typically know and can do more than client marketers.
So, focus you coaching on those ideas you wish to pursue and what is needed to make each more productive. Then, shut-up!
However, if the agency asks “Why?” you didn’t select a given idea or ideas then, as mentioned, you must address it. But, consistent with what we’ve been talking about, don’t talk about what you don’t like, or what you think is wrong, but what you would need to see (or have done) in order to make the work more productive (as in achieving the Communication “Behavior” Objective). Another approach is to identify what is present in the ones you are choosing to pursue further (in other words, what makes them work) that is not present in the ones you are not choosing.
The thrust behind coaching is consistent with the definition of “coach,” a vehicle for transporting people to a place they could not get on their own” (as in a Coach and Six). It is not to tell or educate people of all the reasons they are not reaching their destination. Clinical psychologists inform us that if you want to influence or change behavior it is more productive to tell others what behavior you need to see versus that which you don’t want. For example, if you tell your child who SLAMS the door shut every morning when he leaves for school, “don’t slam the door” you are likely to continue hearing the door slammed shut. On the other hand, if you ask of the child “please close the door quietly,” you are more likely that he will exhibit the positive behavior. Of course adding “thank you” before the child leaves also helps to trigger the positive behavior.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS
1. Start with an overview about the work. Let the agency know where you stand with regard to their progress. Are you ready to proceed with some ideas? Do they have some ideas that will require additional work to bring out their full potential? Is it back to the drawing board due to either strategic issues or the need for more compelling ideas?
2. Talk only about those ideas you wish to pursue and what is needed to make each more productive. Then, SHUT-UP!
3. If the agency asks “Why?” you didn’t select a given idea or ideas then, as mentioned, you must address their question. If it is a strategic issue go back to the Essential Creative Brief and relate your comments to it. If it is related to ideas (i.e., the creative work) focus your comments on the component parts of the Campaign Idea (and whole) and your judgment (wearing the customer hat) on its ability to compel achievement of the SMART Communication Behavior Objective you’ve selected.
4. When providing direction Add-Valuate. Don’t talk about what you don’t like or what you believe is wrong but instead make your comments about what you need to have in order to make the work more productive. In other words, fill the glass. Provide direction. But don’t be prescriptive. For example, state “The key copy words need to reflect the benefit in compelling customer language that’s consistent with the idea.” Don’t say, “Say this …” Let the agency use their creativity to address the issue.
5. “You do not need to, nor should you, select something that the agency presents UNLESS you believe it is capable of achieving your SMART Communication Behavior Objective goal identified in the Essential Creative Brief.”
We’ve said enough about this subject. So, we’ll shut-up and let you get to work developing leadership advertising. Good luck!
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
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