Account Management with Becky
20 October 2023
Originally published by Little Black Book
isobel Senior Account Director on being the 'jack of all trades', getting everyone on the same page and why you should always ask a lot of questions.
LBB> How did you first get involved in account management and what appealed to you about it?
Becky> I had tried my hand at a few different things by my mid 20s but I hadn’t found anything that really suited me. I knew I wanted to work in the creative industry, but I also wanted to engage the business side of my brain. So after a happenstance dinner with a friend where I learnt that the account management role even existed, I got my foot in the door and haven’t looked back.
LBB> What is it about your personality, skills and experience that has made account management such a great fit?
Becky> I love that account management requires quite a varied skill set, to be the ‘jack of all trades’ – and that every day is different with a new problem to solve. It keeps me on my toes and allows me to learn and grow in the role.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have worked with some incredibly talented leaders, who are also really nurturing and invested in my development. That’s something I really value and have tried to emulate as I’ve progressed – as we work super hard, it’s important that there’s support there too.
LBB> What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in account management?
Becky> Ask lots of questions. There’s a tendency for you to expect yourself to know what’s going on and prove yourself when you’re first starting out, but it’s better to ask the questions now so you know it for when it counts. Ask about processes and what each department does. The more curious you are the better.
LBB> Thinking back to some of your most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client-agency relationships?
Becky> A lack of trust. If the trust isn’t there - in the people working on the business, in the creative that’s being presented, or in the honesty of the conversation – then there can be a total breakdown of communication. The most challenging experiences I’ve had are definitely when the trust has broken or wasn’t there to begin with, because you can’t form or maintain functioning relationships and that inevitably impacts the work.
LBB> And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?
Becky> From a client side, I think it’s about knowing the business you’re working on and the people running it – what is the client worried about? What do they want to achieve? Knowing these things means you can be more open to honest conversations about the work.
However, there are lots of other internal and external relationships you need to nurture as an account person, and one thing I’ve always tried to do is work out (or even just ask directly!) how people like to work and communicate. Everyone has their nuances, and then it just comes down to respecting someone’s preferences.
LBB> What’s your view on disagreement and emotion - is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why - and what does productive disagreement look like?
Becky> Disagreement, yes 100%. Part of being in account management is being able to see all sides, and represent those sides, of the argument. Without pulling it apart, you can’t understand all the factors at play and push to get the best result for the client and the agency.
Emotion is a more difficult one to answer. There’s a lot of passion in the creative industries, which is important – it fuels what we’re doing, and when you aren’t passionate about a piece of work it won’t be its best. But to be in account management does require a level head and you can’t let your emotions get the best of you when something goes wrong, as we are constantly putting out fires.
LBB> Historically, account management has been characterised as the mediator in an adversarial client and creative relationship - what do you make of that characterisation, is there any nugget of truth in that or is it wildly inaccurate?
Becky> I’m not sure it’s straightforward – we are mediators in some regards but we’re also not passive peacekeepers. We’re responsible for interrogating the information and guiding to the best outcome. Like I said, we are a passionate industry and people do become very wedded to an idea or the way something should be! So it’s important that we try and find the solution and negotiate to get everyone on the same page.
LBB> These days, agencies do so much beyond traditional campaigns and as account management you’re pulling together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social and more - and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too? What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?
Becky> I think it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a huge list of deliverables, stretching across multiple channels with different needs – but in my experience so far, the most crucial thing is making sure it’s all rooted in the big idea. And of course, that big idea needs to be thought out and, well, ‘big’ enough to make sense for every touch point. It’s called different things in different agencies, but the ‘red thread’ helps keep it simple and bring even the most complex concepts back down to earth.
LBB> What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?
Becky> We had an amazing summer at isobel and got a lot of great new content out. I got to be involved in both the new Travelodge campaign and the new JET campaign, which were both totally different in terms of strategy, creative and even the type of production. It was challenging from an account management perspective as we were juggling quite a bit, but equally, we were all, super determined to get the absolute best work for both client and agency. Communication was key - regular, clear conversations to keep everyone up to speed, involved and collaborative but also finding the right time and the right ways to have the more difficult conversations.
I absolutely love the production part of any campaign. Seeing the idea you’ve worked on for months finally coming to life is just so satisfying. And then you see it in the world, just one random evening on TV, popping up on your feed or walking past some OOH on your commute in – like ‘hey! I did that!’. For me it’s still a mad feeling that I hope never goes away.
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