EDITORIAL: Distinguishing between managing clients and managing an office should serve everyone well

John Graham, chairman and CEO of Fleishman-Hillard (who is profiled on p. 13 of this issue), is enthused about formalizing a system he says the agency has long practiced.

John Graham, chairman and CEO of Fleishman-Hillard (who is profiled on p. 13 of this issue), is enthused about formalizing a system he says the agency has long practiced.

The role of "client relationship manager" (CRM), integrated within the regional leadership and practice heads, will enable the agency to better service clients, Graham believes. But the other benefit, he says, is to recognize and reward those who may not be suited to, or interested in, becoming GM of their office, but who keep clients engaged. Sometimes the CRM and the GM will be one and the same, but the structure allows for the title to be allocated to the person who is best able to handle it. The point is at once obvious and confounding. Employees who perform well expect and deserve promotions and recognition. But agencies are littered with people who were excellent at servicing accounts, but can't cut it as managers. Equally frustrating are those who dislike running an office, but do so only in the interest of career development. That's a recipe for fleeing the profession. The bigger risk for large firms is that these talented folks will eventually grow tired of the management chores and take their skills away to a small consultancy (existing or self-created) where they no longer have to worry about everything from hiring top staff to finding the cheapest supplier of paper products for the office. Creating a role that recognizes that not all great people are cut from the same management cloth seems like a good idea. It will be interesting to see how this plan works in practice. Though I have not heard of specific examples, it stands to reason that other firms may have devised similar ways to recognize the distinction between business management and client management in their hierarchy. At the same time, all firms will be aware that the emphasis on running an efficient agency business has never been more critical. This is true not only for agencies that are part of holding companies answering to shareholders, but for independent firms whose clients count on their partners to reflect solid business savvy. PRWeek has a feature in May that focuses on 20 top agency managers. While the industry is appropriately finding ways to reward great service, it is also a crucial time to define what attributes spell success in running a profitable company. Here's a plan: figure out what 'strategy' means The Book of the Night in this week's issue celebrates the best PR programs, organizations, and individuals and last week we handed out the awards to the happy winners. Now that the nice part is over, I would like to take a moment to lament one characteristic that the (thankfully) few really dire entries commonly reflected. To wit, there seems to be a small amount of confusion over what the word "strategy" really means. Strategy is not "to generate buzz that would lead to a lot of attention being paid to this cool new product." (I'm paraphrasing, but not much). Strategy, in a very few cases, was obviously the most underdeveloped aspect of the whole program. Please, please - the "why" should always be as important as the "how."

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