How much do you need to know about your clients?

Listening to American Copywriter this week and, as well as laughing my ass off as usual, had an interesting thought.  One of the guys said that sometimes a deep knowledge of your client is hazardous to your career.  Wow. 

Conventional wisdom says that the more you know about your client the better.  Much better.  When I started, out a fantastic account director called Kate Cleevely, told me that there was always something to do and always something to read in PR. 

And I followed her advice without question, ravenously devouring every vertical publication, business magazine and trade periodical I could find.  But now I’m thinking if that was such a wise thing.  Bear with me senior PRs. 

When I was trying, unsuccessfully, to get my last agency to adapt to social media, I started big – podcast this; blog that; myspace this; UGC that.  Now I know that I should’ve started smaller, wound back the big guns and done something slightly subtler – monitor this, add that to the media service report, include some Google Trends stats. 

Because they didn’t know what I knew.  Because I was way ahead of their learning curve and I was assuming that they would know something and so when one of the senior guys said “I’m not convinced about podcasts” I was so surprised I couldn’t speak.  I was speechless and only recovered a few hours later to send him a link to The Star’s podcast page

Pitching innovation to your agency colleagues is just like pitching a story in or writing a release.  You have to imagine that you’re explaining it to your grandmother and if you’re too attached to your client or your idea, then sometimes it’s hard to separate yourself from that. 

I know that I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past, especially with my favourite client when it’s been such a cool story and I’ve been so excited that I didn’t set the scene properly.  Thankfully it worked out OK and the CEO got the interview but I felt it was touch and go! 

So that’s what can happen when you’re too involved with your client – you start too high up the curve and some people won’t get the story you’re trying to tell.  

Do you represent a laptop manufacturer or retailer?  Do you want your logo here?  If you do, please email me!  

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