Thoughts on helping agencies help clients

Following on from my last post on ‘what’s really behind the social brief‘ I thought it might be a good idea to expand on some practical steps to elevate the problem that many agencies face when it appears their clients don’t ‘get it’.

Training and education seem the obvious first step to start. However let me break down the notion of ‘training’ in terms of what people expect it to be and what it best delivers.

One of the best ‘training’ session I’ve ever been involved in was conducted by my good friend and ex-colleague Hastie Aftkhami (who is global head of training at Social@Ogilvy). I put the inverted commas around the word training because if fact it didn’t fell like training at all. It was a session on training trainers and it centred on how training session should be set out. The crux of the session was that training isn’t so much about imparting wisdom as opening people’s minds to new behaviours and giving them frameworks to adapt seamlessly to those behaviours.

The common misconception people have around training typically aligns around the expectation that they will be told what to do for a particular scenario. For instance, a new department has been given a new piece of software to use and the team who designed the software run a ‘training session’ on the features of using that software. All very well and good you might say, but the problem with many of these types of training is more often than not, the facilitators completely fail to appreciate the environment in which they product will be used. To borrow from another psychological reference, they lack the empathy and emotional intelligence to understand how they users will use they products in anger (ie on a day-to-day basis when the pressure is on).

When it comes to running social media led campaigns for clients, agencies can fall into this trap. Particularly when the client isn’t really sure what it is they want. Most agencies will act dumb and just churn out something for the client based on some loose notion of what they ‘think’ they want.

The smart agencies will attempt to educate the client on what they should be doing often with varying degrees of success and then resort to churning out something for the client based on some loose notion of what they think they want.

The really smart agencies go the extra mile to open a clients mind around the new behaviours a social media led campaign should bring about and set out a vision of what it will deliver. And naturally this will map back to an underlying business objective the client has. That could be helping them towards increasing a market share, reducing an operating cost or perhaps even increasing sales or revenue!

It starts however with really getting to know what your clients business is all about and then helping them visualise what the future will look like with your help. It certainly isn’t easy. But then if it was, everyone would be doing it right.

Of course, I’m always open to a different point of view.