As a PR Account Manager, you’ll be managing a whole lot more than a handful of clients.
Money, time, and above all, your team make up the long list of responsibilities for this challenging role. And, while it can be a lot to take on at first, account management can also be incredibly rewarding once you get the knack.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career or are in an Account Manager role already and want to know how to get a competitive edge to reach superstar status, these four recommendations will get you on the right path.
Information is your ally
It’s true – account management is a huge career step for any PR professional. But the reality is, managing a client's needs is only part of the picture. You also have to be across the likes of project timelines, team management, and the budget.
If you're new to a client account, get a solid understanding of your client’s place in the market and the campaign/project's parameters.
If you're inheriting the client from another team member, take the time to sit down with them and go through what has/hasn't worked to date, the nuances of the client relationship and understand how the campaign is currently tracking. If the client is new to the agency, ensure you thoroughly understand the brief of what the agency has been employed to deliver. If you feel there are gaps in the information, ask questions.
Want to know the most important person you really need to get information from? It's you.
Take note of what situations put you in a state where you get anxious, stressed, or frustrated. Think about what steps occurred to get you there and address them. PR agency life is fast-paced and subsequently, you're often being pulled in multiple directions.
If you become overwhelmed, anxious or upset and it takes you a while to get centred again, you need to know how to control those emotions. Don't push them to the side; understand why they affect you the way they do and learn to manage them.
Get to know your team
The biggest challenge for any budding account manager is learning how to lead a team.
The irony is, most candidates land account management roles because they’ve shown great potential in task-oriented junior positions. But there’s simply no crash course for supervising a large group of people, let alone the significant raft of work you need to set for them.
The first step toward effective team management is understanding how someone else’s working style may differ from your own. Sure, nurturing a range of different personalities and approaches can be tough at times, but they can also be your greatest asset as an account manager.
If you're going to lead a team effectively, you need to soak information in about them. Learn your team members’ individual strengths so you can delegate tasks with quality. Understand what areas they need to develop and how you can assist them with that.
Know the difference between delegation and supervision. You can only delegate to people who are comfortable and experienced in doing that task. If they've never attempted that task before, then you need to invest time into giving them a comprehensive brief and supervising their progress. Investing time with them up-front will ensure they get a better handle on the task and then, moving forward, you'll be able to delegate to them. Win win.
You also need to make yourself accessible to the team. Help them with tasks you mastered at the same point in your own career so they can grow in theirs.
Become a champion of conflict resolution
A journalist is being prickly and unpleasant to deal with. An unhappy client is out for blood. In account management, you're generally the first port of call when things go pear-shaped and you are likely to be the first recipient of some unpleasant emails or phone calls.
The most important thing to remember in conflict situations is this: it’s often not personal. Most of the time, we just don’t know what’s happening in the background with the other person. Perhaps they have a stressful personal situation and it's impacted their professional life. Maybe they had a poor experience with the previous PR account manager or even PR agency, so they are not particularly trusting. If someone’s having a bad day, chances are it has nothing to do with us or the work we’re doing.
When dealing with any kind of conflict, recognise that the other person may not be in a state where they are willing to listen to you. In that situation, acknowledge their feelings, let them know you're going to look into it right away and come back to them.
That gives you time to review the facts and see what may have gone wrong or caused the misunderstanding. At the appropriate time, tactfully recap on the facts of the situation. Sometimes, assumptions are made just as often as mistakes and it may be the other person wasn't across the information and has taken a stance based on that. By setting the record straight, you might be able to clear up a misunderstanding.
If it's a minor issue, deal with it there and then. Take ownership for any mistakes but don't be afraid to push back and educate your client on any information they have incorrectly assumed. If it starts to escalate, recognise that the conversation may need to be picked up again later and it may be necessary to get your manager involved.
Maintain great client relationships
A client wants to know you have their back, through thick and thin.
They want to feel confident you can guide them through a tricky situation or even better, you'll spot it before it happens.
They want you to be proactive: leading conversations, identifying opportunities and taking initiative.
The stronger your relationship is with your clients, the more trust they'll have in you, which will give you the freedom to do your job they way you feel is best.
The challenge is, each client has wildly different needs and working styles. One may want a comprehensive weekly email update while another may want a daily phone update. When you first start working with a client, make sure you understand how and when they like to receive information.
Look for ways your team can get to know that client. This will create a matrix of relationships you can call upon throughout the project's lifespan and it will increase the trust the client has in the agency, overall. Which can lead to extended campaigns or new work from them.
Focus on delivering results. As soon as you have some up your sleeve, most clients will begin to become a big fan of yours. Which is why the 'quick win', is always a great thing to secure. As soon as you start working with a client, identify a meaningful piece of coverage you're confident you can secure really quickly. You don't necessarily have to alert them to your plan, but work hard and fast to secure something that will impress them. It will go a long way in cementing that trust.
Loved these tips and want to learn more about becoming a superstar PR Account Manager? Listen to our podcast interview with Amanda Little, expert PR trainer and agency mentor. Amanda runs in-person and online PR courses designed to help emerging PR managers and leaders accelerate their careers. One of her most popular courses is Star Account Manager, and Amanda shares tips on how to make a smooth transition to PR Account Manager in this podcast episode, with some of those tips integrated into the above blog.
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