Improving the back-line of defence

In the world of advertising we are exposed to many different fields of marketing, which includes media in general – but also specialisms such as research, sponsorships, branded content, activations, PR, econometrics, brand strategy, and the ever expanding list of specialisms sitting within the digital space.

As media agency professionals, we are fortunate enough to be exposed to all of this, thus incrementally growing our knowledge across all facets.  It is increasingly difficult to be a master of all disciplines given the rate at which they are evolving and emerging, so clients require both specialists and generalists to help them navigate this web of diversity to deliver on their overarching communications challenges.

Too often in my career, I have observed responses and recommendations that are transactional and lacking in leadership. An executional response to a brief. This is fine when the challenge is simple, the brief is straight forward and the outcome is tried and tested.  However, when the opportunity exists to make a greater difference, there is a risk of plans becoming too submissive to feedback in terms of what makes the cut.  We are very good at putting forward strong recommendations that challenge convention, but when it comes to defending our ideas we need to be a little more…well… defensive.

I’m not saying that we should be deliberately provocative and encourage a dispute, the point here is to have more conviction in your view. When you have a strong opinion backed by a sound rationale and grounded in the brief and information that has been provided, then yes, at times, (as delicate as you have to be), there is a need to respectfully disagree with the client or group consensus. More often than not this will be the catalyst to a healthy discussion, and encourages a re-consideration of the often safer option – which is to revert back to what was done in the previous year or use that as a benchmark.

It’s really important to understand the feedback you have been given or understand why things did not get approved, so make sure you ask why if you do not have clarity.  If self-confidence is a factor in speaking up, then rely on data for support and know that you will always be supported by your team and peers.

So my advice is to next time:

  • First really understand the feedback and rationale given
  • If not clear, then ask why
  • Be brave if you disagree and say so (respectfully)
  • Have an opinion and deliver it with confidence
  • Remember you are not alone

Seems pretty obvious, but the challenge here is recognising the right moment and delivering your defence tactfully in order to illicit the best possible response from the person/group/forum.  With improvements in this back-line of defence, it allows us to take on a more leading role, be relied on more for our views and opinions and move away from the transactional game that we don’t want to play.

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