Seeing red: agency bosses who do all the talking

John McLaren, AkzoNobel's corporate director of comms, talks agency behaviours he can't stand.

John McLaren:  corporate director of comms, AzkoNobel
John McLaren: corporate director of comms, AzkoNobel

Much of my ire is targeted at agencies and consultants. I interview dozens of people and have countless meetings with agency teams, and the same thing happens time after time. They send a big, eager group of smartly dressed people to conduct a pitch, but then their boss does all the talking. Poor Tristan and Cyan can’t get a word in edgeways.

To make things worse, the person in charge usually gets completely carried away and starts spouting utter drivel about how media relations works and why their vision of comms is a perfect match for us. Tristan and Cyan are usually ready to leave at this point. I’m simmering quietly – after 30 years, I think I get media relations.

Perhaps when they talk about their global network it will be more interesting. Or not. They may think they’re impressing me with all this stuff about offices in Asia and the Americas, and how they’re part of some giant organ-isation, but I’m not buying it.

I know that in reality this will make no difference. While London and Paris are fab, New York is second division and Madrid is in deep suspended animation.

I start simmering more vigorously by the time things move on to cross-fertilisation. Am I about to pour scorn on this too? Well, yes. Because while they may be part of The Entire Universe Inc and have incredible contacts with other agencies all over the planet, what their glorious leader has failed to mention is that they can’t stand each other.

And as far as bad journalists go, don’t get me started. You know the type. Long articles on oligarchs and paint jobs. One problem – no one actually asked us, so articles are seriously less than balanced. Simmer? Call me the Aga Comms… You can quote me on that.

John McLaren is corporate director of comms at AzkoNobel

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