Agencies, Partners: It’s Time To Let It All Hang Out

February 05, 2015

By Danielle Terreri

How transparent should agency and client partners be with one another? Transparent enough that when an organization asks you to co-present with your client at a committee meeting on how you two work together to create a successful partnership, you can confidently accept. And transparency with others starts with being fiercely honest with yourself.

Now, let me explain.

My recent post on what makes a good agency partner, and what brand should expect from them resonated with a reader who contacted me about co-presenting with a client on this very topic at their next committee meeting. Enhancement of the client/agency partnership is a hot topic right now and one that I am in the trenches with on a daily basis. Thankfully, we walk the walk here at SME Digital, so selecting a client to partner with for this presentation was simple.

As I noodled around how this presentation might play out, I realized that the best way to connect with the audience was not through blowing smoke about rainbows and butterflies (i.e. a perfect partnership, where our agency makes no mistakes and our client is flawless). The value here is through sharing compelling experiences that takes the audience through the cringe-worthy and the unthinkable circumstances (we all have them) and how a strong partnership can navigate through to successful outcomes and lessons gained.

Imperfection is okay. And normal.

SME Digital’s ego free and client-centric culture allows us to have very strong partnerships with our clients that are results-driven (which is not always the case in an agency/client partnership). Even so, as I thought through a couple of stories with varying degrees of anxiety for both our agency and our client (all of which turned out well), I realized something: I am not a perfect account manager. The agency I work for is not an error-free organization. Our clients are human, too. Reasonable mistakes are inevitable and don’t have to be the end of a partnership. We get through the ups and downs by being transparent with one another, practicing honesty at all times, telling each other what we need to hear (not necessarily what we want to hear), by keeping each other’s best interest at heart, and by learning from our mistakes.

I realized that there was a chance that I may learn even more about my client’s organization and perspective through this presentation. I am confident that this experience is going to be one that we both learn and grow from and will make our bond and shared vision even stronger.

So, the next time the thought of telling a white lie to ease the blow, or omitting something that “shouldn’t affect anything”, ask yourself this: If someone called you tomorrow requesting you co-present with your client, would you be able to confidently accept?

Would you stand on a stage today, with or in front of your client, and let it all hang out?

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