We have several instances around us of some of the best people are not able to work together. Brilliant directors cannot work with versatile actors, best scientific minds cannot come together, or best agencies cannot produce award-winning works for best brands. Clearly, in these situations, the question is not one of lack of skill. It is that of lack of trust. The trust deficit undermines skill and talent.
The trust factor plays a critical role in the agency-client, and agency-media and client-media relationships. In our profession, it is fundamental to our work. On many occasions, particularly during a crisis, we give more credence to trust than other aspects. We need a partner we can rely on and have the confidence that they will deliver.
As Hilary Hinton ‘Zig’ Ziglar, American author and sales expert, said: “If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you”.
Three legs of trust
Creating a positive relationship is a fundamental tenet of trust. The ERA model (Efficiency, Responsive, Agility), a term I have coined, helps build a positive relationship.
Efficiency: Sometimes, to ‘comfort’ the client that they are invested in the account sufficiently, agencies tend to create unnecessary duplications and redundancies. They build layers that add no value or provide any benefit to the client. It creates a frustrating situation, as one is not able to comprehend why it is required. It adds to the cost and leads to misallocation of resources. An efficient and leaner team will be more productive than an over-layered, redundant team.
Responsive: A team that is focused, high on business understanding, transparent and helps in client’s decision making is what makes it responsive. It builds a client’s confidence in making the right decisions. However, agency teams are threading on the tricky rope of both responsiveness to clients and media responsiveness. There is a trade-off that exists and at times may result in unintended consequences.
Agility: Clients demand agencies be more than fast. They want agencies to be nimble and alert to spot strategic opportunities and help them stay on course. Agencies have always needed particular agility. With the pandemic in 2020 ushering in dramatic changes, fresh engagement models became a necessity. Clients relied on their agency to provide quick, well-thought-through and coordinated support during this time.
The year went by changed the dynamics between agency, client and media significantly. It is even more imperative now for agencies to be on top of the client and the media’s issues and concerns. They need to strike the right balance between results and concerns. They also need to be transparent and honest. How the latter anticipates and helps the former respond quickly to problems is essential for clients to trust the agency.
The final element in trust-building is to walk the talk. Agencies need to demonstrate what they say they will do. Follow through on commitments and willingness to go above and beyond what is needed builds a long-term positive relationship between the two.
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