Collaborative problem-solving: working with, not for, a client

Emily Antoniadi
21st Nov 2016

It’s a funny thing how communications agencies typically work. The belief permeates that we (i.e. the agency) always needs to be one step ahead of the client. Have the answers. Know how to solve a problem.

But I disagree.

Impressing the client with brilliant work, going above and beyond, is what we should be striving to do all the time, but, labouring in the belief that we can’t involve the client in the process is misguided and unhelpful.

As an external partner you will never have as much insight into your client’s world as they do. The sooner that you accept that, the sooner you will realise that the only way to crack creative communications is to engage the client at every stage of the process.

  • Doing some research into their audience – great, invite the client along to an internal brainstorm on this.
  • Having a think about messaging, and what is actually going to make an impression on the audience – why not see if the client has any thoughts?
  • Struggling to unpick a particular campaign objective – talk it through with the person who created it.
  • Planning the kind of brainstorm where ideas that could get you fired might come up – brief the client, and get their thoughts on honing the spectrum of thought.

Your client might not always want to be involved (and let’s be honest, some clients just want a nicely packaged, off-the-shelf communications plan that they don’t have to think too much about), but for those campaigns, ideas, and problems which really excite you, working hand-in-hand with the client is a must.

It is more difficult than ever to cut-through. To get the right messages, in front of the right audience at the right time. But it can be done, just not in isolation. If we continue to keep an agency’s “creative process” separate from the client then it just leaves the communications industry open to further criticism that we struggle to practise what we preach.

Let’s change the format. Let’s have exciting meetings where we work together, debate and come up with something awesome. That sounds fun to me.