CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I'm a PR manager at a New York retailer. I made some foolish promises to my managing director on a campaign which my agency has been working on for six months. They convinced me that using a celebrity would assure press, but we've ended up with almost none. Should I fire the agency to show the MD I'm taking action?

Ms. F, New York, NY

A: Oops. Bet you're having a constant stream of calls from your scared account manager, explaining all the mitigating circumstances, why they can never guarantee coverage, etc. But poor you has to face up to the boss on the spent budget, for which you have generated nothing. Sorry, was I rubbing it in?

I sympathize, but only a little. You've learned the hard way that as you have to account for campaign results, you have to be sure that you have selected the best option, right from the start. Your question smacks of buck-passing at decision time.

I showed your question to Elliot Sloane, CEO of Sloane & Company, who agreed with me that you have to shoulder some responsibility here. 'Sounds like scapegoat time,' he said, 'You hired the firm, you managed the process and you believed in the strategy. It did not work. Now you must decide if the plan was faulty or if the execution stunk. Fire the firm on that basis, rather than to save your job. Your boss will know the deal anyway.'

So take some action. Review the plan with the agency, and pinpoint where the problems are. See which parts can be altered to make it work. Agree on a time frame and be clear about your expectations. If you have not seen results in the agreed-upon time, you can pull the plug knowing you've been fair to everyone, and that you've learned the difference between being tough and being responsible.

Oh, and try not to be star-struck next time.

Q: I'm an AE at a medium-sized agency. In December a new account director was appointed on two of my accounts. I was told I was expected to bring her up to speed on the detail of the campaigns we have planned and introduce her to clients. At first, I didn't mind doing this, but two months on I find that I'm taking all the initiative, including contact with the clients. She earns about 50% more than me. I think she should be contributing more by now. Should I talk to my MD about this?

Ms. T, Seattle, WA

A: Before you go bounding in like a bull in china shop, stop and think how you could turn this situation to your own advantage. Yes, you seem to be doing more than you should at your level. But look at it as a chance to bolster your resume - this may be your only chance to get some great experience, while not technically being responsible for the outcome. If that won't satisfy, take the advice of Judith Harrison, VP of Human Resources at Ruder Finn. She recommends you give your account director a strategic account reference document. This should include an overview of what has been done on the account, what is still to be executed, details of problems that have risen and how they've been solved, plus some helpful information about your clients. After presenting it to your director, ask for a new project to sink your teeth into. 'This will serve the dual purpose of making you look like the motivated up-and-comer you are, and giving you less time to be involved in things the account director should be doing,' adds Harrison. 'If you do all of this and she is still not pulling her weight, have a chat with your MD.'

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