By Elyse Ash
We’ve all been there. Usually it happens at 4:30 on a Friday when we’re packing up our laptop, trying to sneak out early to make that 5 o’clock happy hour with the friends we haven’t seen in 3 weeks. Work’s been crazy. The whole agency’s in the middle of a pitch or an expensive production and then finally you get a day that seems normal and quiet, you’re almost free—until…
There’s one more edit. One more tweak. One more option they’d like to see.
Or worse. The whole concept is dead.
As a creative, this moment super sucks. Thinking you’re at the tail-end of a project, only to realize that now, in the very last minutes, you have to start over.
As harrowing as this moment is for creatives, as a people pleaser I almost imagine it being worse for account managers (I said almost). Having to approach creatives who are at the end of their rope, and ask for more changes and edits on behalf of a client: Have you thought of…why didn’t you…they’d like to see another option…can you try it without…
As the account manager, you are oftentimes the messenger. And we, the creatives, are quick to shoot you in the face (metaphorically speaking) the second you bear that bad news. We argue, eye roll, huff, puff, curse, cry…our immediate response is almost always negative. When receiving copy feedback, I’ve never said, “Wow! I really like this new pun-laden headline the client wrote in 4 seconds! It’s actually way better than mine!”
So what’s the best way to handle this situation as an account manager? How can you get the deliverables you need without alienating your creative team? Here are some small suggestions that might help this conversation go just a little bit smoother (although, no promises!):
1. Show that You’ve Already Tried to Push Back – One of the reasons creatives get so frustrated with account managers is because we feel like you’re not on our side. We know your job is tricky and allegiances get sticky, but first and foremost, we need to feel like you get it. You get what we are up against, and the best way to demonstrate this is by proactively trying everything you can to make our lives easier. That might mean pushing back a deadline, or bargaining with the client and reducing the immediate deliverables list. But by showing creatives you’ve already been proactive and are trying to make our lives less sucky, then we’re already going to feel a little better.
2. Empathize with Us – Admit that this sucks. Admit it’s frustrating. Admit it makes the work less amazing. Please help us feel less crazy. Just saying how frustrated you are, as well, makes us feel like we are all on the same team. The team against Crazy.
3. Fight for the Work – Remind us that you are all about delivering the best, most effective work to the clients (just like us). Creatives fight their hardest every day to take a brand idea they love and believe in, and maintain its integrity over the course of months. Please tell us and show us that you believe in it, too and are willing to push back for the best end result.
4. Ask Nicely – This sounds obvious, but you’d be shocked at how quickly it gets tossed aside when everyone is under pressure and trying to meet intense deadlines. Polite requests evaporate and transform into “YOU NEED TO GET THIS DONE AND RESIZED BY 8:30AM.” So remember to use your manners and your magic words. They’ll get you pretty far.
5. Ask if You Can Help in Any Way – Most of the time you can’t. Unless you learn Photoshop overnight, there’s pretty much nothing you can do in the literal sense. But you can be incredibly helpful in other ways. Is there information missing? Do we need examples of some weird media buy? Specs? Is there fuzzy feedback that we need explained differently? Or can you just stay late and offer emotional support and a Kanye West playlist as the creative team tries to crank stuff out. Either way, offering to help and then following through is a great way to earn brownie points with your creative team.