Jennifer O'Grady - Head of Agency

Head of Agency

THE best client/agency relationships are the ones where you feel truly, intuitively, part of the same team so ideas and campaigns come together seamlessly.

That doesn’t happen by accident and it takes time and effort on both sides to understand the people, personalities and priorities. 

Most of the time, achieving that level of unity comes from plenty of face to face contact in meeting rooms, coffee shops, restaurants and bars. However, in the Covid world we all now live in that’s just not possible – which has presented us with a pandemic puzzler: How do we maintain close and layered relationships with clients when they only exist to us as faces on a screen?

Lockdown has taken so many of life’s ordinary moments from us, but for a group of communications professionals the lack of face to face contact that we thrive on professionally – with clients, journalists and each other – has been hardest to take.

At Democracy, we’re a fairly outgoing bunch and never stuck for conversation. We also like to solve problems, so this was just another hurdle for us to overcome.

Maintaining relationships

Robbed of the ability to see our clients in the flesh, It seemed that the most obvious starting point to maintaining and growing relationships was lots of check-ins, way more than we’d ever have had pre-Covid. It was important to mix these up too, between text, audio and video.

We know that video call fatigue definitely exists – that feeling of being all Zoom-ed out – so to avoid ever being an annoyance or a call that someone would duck, it was key to switch between formal and informal check-ins.

A quick text, email or audio call – sometimes two or three times daily if there were sufficient topics to talk about or a fast-moving news day – ensures that the conversation flows naturally with no need for an agenda.

Making the most of every platform

Making use of every available platform has also been key to opening up and maintaining relationships at a distance with our clients. Zoom has been adopted as the go-to, as it has for most people on the planet, but we have also jumped on to Teams, Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Lifesize and more – anything to keep in touch.

In the initial days and weeks of the pandemic, some clients needed daily calls as the speed the world was changing at required it to keep on top of what it meant for them and their business and ensure we stayed front foot with our comms.

At times, decisions made and comments drafted in the morning would be out of date by the afternoon and that’s when knowing you can just lift the phone or drop a message to catch up quickly is essential if client and agency are to operate in the most agile way.

As routines became established and – that dreaded phrase – the new normal took shape, formal check-ins became fewer, but the continuing ban on any face to face contact meant the need for frequent contact stayed top of the agenda.

Keeping it social

Grasping for any sense of normality, the Democracy team also consciously ensured that our contact with clients wasn’t 100% work focused.

As it used to happen in the pre-Corona world, relaxed small talk about home life, the news and last night’s TV were the everyday touchpoints that built rapport to the next level.

However, Democracy isn’t known for doing things by half, so we decided to crank things up a notch during the enforced lockdown months by hosting virtual socials with clients to replace those impromptu nights out that we missed so much.

As well as being sharp professionals working for go-ahead companies, what we like most about our clients is that they are just a cracking bunch of people. And we missed being able to hang out with them after the work of the day was done.

Several months into Covid world and with no end in sight to some restrictions, this isn’t an adjustment we’ve made to ride out a crisis, this is the way we’re doing business for the foreseeable. That’s why the effort we put in right at the start means those all-important relationships are as strong as ever. Still can’t wait for the day we have our first glass of wine round the same table again, though…