A fire breaks out. You need to call 911. Everyone knows that. Similarly, corporate and association executives need to open a direct line to the fire brigade to help them handle those inevitable communications emergencies.
For many a public affairs or public relations agency, the solution involves collaborating with a specialist. These experts form the backbone of your fire brigade.
One area that is fertile for partnerships at almost every agency is spokesperson and media training. Let’s face it. Clients need to be savvy when they deal with reporters, when they deliver presentations, and when they testify before Congress or a regulatory body.
Wait a moment, you say. You work for a large global agency that has experts on staff. That may be true (though ask yourself in all honesty: Do these folks really focus on communications training day in and day out? Most agencies have eviscerated or entirely eliminated their training staffs in recent years). Maintaining an on-demand stable of independent consultants gives global agencies the flexibility their clients deserve.
What about mid-size agencies? They certainly owe their clients the best expertise they can deliver. Since most medium size and small market agencies do not employ an expert who lives, eats, and breathes communications training, account teams there rely on outside consultants. This means they need to have the consultant’s contact information at the ready so they can call in the rescue squad at a moment’s notice.
That’s important, for the overwhelming majority of account team members simply do not have the expertise to lead their clients through the mine field when it comes to dealing with reporters, speaking in public, and delivering legislative testimony. It’s no shame; their focus simply lies in other areas. This applies to agencies large and small.
Your clients need an experienced hand who can help them craft an air-tight message and advance their communications skills. In addition, most communicators have never served as reporters, a vital piece of background for any media training consultant.
Outside advisors bring an additional, and very important, benefit. They are able to parachute in as “experts from afar,” offering critiques that account teams who must work with the client day after day often cannot. For example, if the client’s CEO is too long-winded or insists on wearing lime green leisure suits, the consultant can tell him (politely, of course) to knock it off. Some account teams shy away from such straightforward advice for fear of losing business (I call that “communications malpractice,” but that’s a subject for another time).
Agencies benefit when they work with outside experts. And so do you, as an account team member. You get a valuable on-the-job education – and an indispensable networking connection – that can help you advance your career.
Here’s the key takeaway: Account team members will enhance their status both within their agency and among their clients when they establish partnerships with independent communications experts.
If you are part of an agency account team, whether senior or junior in experience, I urge you to build your network before you need it. When the emergency strikes – and it will – make sure you already have your professional consultant’s 911 number on your speed dial.