A Recap of #AdweekChat

This week’s #AdWeekChat focused on breaking up with clients, and plenty of responses compared ending professional relationships to ending personal ones. Image courtesy of Unsplash.com.

This week, I got to participate in the #AdweekChat on Twitter, learning all I could about the ins and outs of ending relationships with clients.

This week’s topic tied into Valentine’s Day in a clever way; the title of the chat was “Breaking Up With a Client.”

Overall, the chat focused on the difficulties advertising, PR and marketing professionals face when they have to stop working with a client; how do these professionals know when to let go of the client, and what’s the best way to severe the working relationship?

In this recap, I’m going to go question by question through this week’s #AdweekChat, recapping some general responses.

  1. Adweek kicked the discussion off by asking, “Have you ever had to break up with a client, either as a freelancer or at an agency? Was it difficult?”

This question seemed like it was primarily useful for background information; a lot of chat participants said yes, they had fired a client, but a few participants said no. This question really just allowed for participants to work out what experiences other chat participants were coming in with.

2. The second question began to touch on people’s personal views. Adweek asked, “What’s the best way to break up with a client? Email? Phone call? In person? Or just let them find out on @AgencySpy?”

A lot of participants agreed that in person was the best option, with some people likening the experience to ending a personal relationship. Some people said that phone calls would be the next best option. Almost everyone was against using email or apps like Snapchat.

3. Adweek’s third question was, “How do you know when a client is toxic and not worth keeping?”

This question was exceptionally useful, in my view. As a student, it’s never really occurred to me that dropping a client is an option, but, judging by some of the chat participant’s stories and suggestions, there are absolutely some situations in which dropping a client is acceptable and even necessary.

My favorite responses to this question include Paradise Agency’s answer (“A3: There are signs. Poor communication, changing criteria without notice, not agreeing on what is “good” work, etc.”) and Chau Luu’s answer (“When the client is too controlling, over-monitors every step and doesn’t listen to your opinion.”)

These responses were specific and highlight what could be major problems, especially with something like “not agreeing on what is ‘good’ work.” Understanding expectations is an integral part of communications work on both sides, and if that’s not working out, then I can absolutely see why a professional would want to end that relationship.

Another important response to question number three was tweeted by Alex Burkart (@ FelixSTL):“When the number one reason you keep losing talent is because of said client.” This tweet lead to Adweek tweeting a follow-up question regarding the importance of keeping talent versus keeping a client. (Overall, many people valued keeping their talent over the client.)

4. The next question focused on a specific factor that could severe a professional relationship: Adweek asked, “If a client is struggling financially, should an agency/vendor just move on, or try to weather the storm with them?”

In the words of chat participant Paul McCall, “A4 It’s seems like every single answer to this questions is some form of “It depends.”

Overall, a lot of participants said that it was worth it to try weathering the storm up until a certain point. What that point was depends on the situation’s circumstances, which I absolutely agree with.

5. Adweek’s fifth question was, “In the pitch phase, what are some early warning signs of a high-maintenance client? Any phrases that set off alarm bells?”

Like question three, this question was exceptionally useful for a student unfamiliar with the idea of breaking up with a client. As someone with very little practical experience in PR and advertising, I’ve never had to consider watching out for these types of warning signs, and it was great to learn about them.

The professionals in the chat had a lot of good points; some, like Red Shark Digital, mentioned client rudeness, and others, such as the HMH agency, brought up clients who think they know better than the communications professionals that they’re hiring.

The HMH Agency’s point struck a cord with me the most; if a client can’t or won’t respect the experience and advice that a communications professional brings to the table, then I can certainly see how a working relationship would become difficult.

6. Question six was: “Do you think we’ll see more agencies and clients dumping one another due to politics this year?”

A lot of responses agreed that politics and business shouldn’t necessarily mix, but different people disagreed on whether or not clients and agencies would actually drop each other’s business over politics.

Overall, the #AdweekChat was an incredibly beneficial learning experience. I’m looking forward to future chats!