Order taker or curious partner?

Which agency culture is best for your brand?

Question everything. I learned the value of that early on in my copy career. Who is the audience? Why do they care? What is the business reason behind the assignment? When those questions were answered with reams of input, creative output became more relevant and certainly more effective. Sadly, there were times when my queries were met with blank, doe-eyed stares from account associates. BLINK, BLINK. Or worse, the ultimate shut down, “I don’t know, the client just wants us to do it.”

Are questions good or bad for business?

Recently, while reflecting on past agency cultures, I wondered why so many quell curiosity rather than encourage it. What’s to gain from order taking? The obvious answer is, less client-agency conflict. Question the client and you jeopardize the relationship, right? I emphatically disagree. Thoughtful, insightful inquiries strengthen business results and business relationships. Especially if the agency-client relationship is built on mutual trust and respect. Sadly, not all of them are, and both parties pay dearly for their lack.

Would you like a strategy with that content?

Let’s say you ping your agency for a “brand video.” Eager to please, they follow your directive and deliver exactly what you ask for: five minutes of testimonials, company history and lots of product. Fade in. Fade out. End of story. But what if, in your well-intentioned quest for content, you failed to consider where the video fits into the customer journey? What if you rushed into execution without a distribution plan or success metric. Because your conflict-averse agency failed to probe your intent, you now have a piece of content with no purpose, place or power.

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Marketing bias. Who me?

It’s human nature to seek information that confirms our beliefs. In fact, contradictory points of view can actually strengthen wrong beliefs. All the more reason to surround yourself with wise council regarding your precious marketing dollars. Sure, you’re the expert about your company and its brands. But, perhaps, just perhaps, your understanding of audience behavior or media consumption hasn’t kept up with changes in the marketing landscape. In this business, a little self-awareness and a well-informed partner go a long way toward hitting your numbers.

What if, why not and how come?

Here at Rhea + Kaiser, we ask lots questions – relevant, insightful questions that inform every department. We work closely with clients to establish communications plans and strategies that align with business goals. We toss around ideas, throw out the one-offs and embrace what gets you where you want to go. Inquisitive isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. But in all my years of sitting across the table from bright and visionary senior marketers, to my knowledge, no plan ever failed because someone in the room asked, “Wait, but why?”

Martha Porter Fiszer, SVP Executive Creative Director at Rhea + Kaiser, believes that curiosity and authenticity are hallmarks of a productive corporate culture

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