In my PR career (so far) I’ve worked with a lot of account managers (26 at last count).
I’ve worked under them as an AA or AE, alongside them as a fellow AM and I’ve managed them, as the owner of an integrated marketing agency with a heavy focus on PR. They’ve run the gamut from the appalling to the outstanding.
I decided to compile a list of ten things that an account manager can do that will exasperate the daylights out of me. I did this in the hope that eager, fresh out of PR school grads will take note, but I’m not going to lie. I also did it to vent a little.
1. Not sending secured coverage immediately. Here’s the thing about securing coverage for your client. When it’s published, you send it to them. Immediately. You don’t first go and make yourself a congratulatory cup of coffee. One sure fire way to get egg on your face is for your client to alert you to the coverage.
2. Laying blame when things go wrong. Not only is laying blame unproductive, it’s a clear demonstration of poor leadership. You’re a team. When it’s raining accolades, you bask in the glory together. Likewise, when mistakes happen you face the fall-out as one and attend to the issue afterwards.
3. Sending an email without context. Emails without context are annoying and a lot like walking into a movie halfway through. If you’re providing feedback to your client after an internal meeting, you need to fill in the blanks. Don’t assume they understand your PR lingo, explain yourself in layman’s terms. Erring on the side of too much information will avoid confusion down the line.
4. Not bothering to do a final check before sending work to the client. When it comes to proofing a feature, the editing buck stops with you. It doesn’t matter who you’ve asked to look over a piece of content (it could even be the company’s resident word nerd), you need to check it one last time before sending it to the client. Simply accepting the changes and passing it along is not an option.
5. Saving work on your desktop instead of the server. Companies use file servers for a reason, the main one being so that everyone has access to the work. Saving things on your desktop is not only going to nettle your colleagues, it also poses a potential threat to your client’s intellectual property. Company processes ensure we function well as a team, they’re not an opportunity for you to flex your outlier muscles.
6. Assume note-taking is something other people do. An integral part of any account manager’s job is taking notes during meetings. Meetings need to result in key take-aways to be actioned when you’re back at your desk. If you spot someone else taking notes (i.e. doing your job), see it as a reminder and get scribbling. It’s definitely not an opportunity to kick back and enjoy your coffee.
7. Say that the client "should be really happy with the service they’re getting." Firstly, whether or not the client is happy is for them to decide. Secondly (and more importantly), you need to focus your efforts on the things you can control, like identifying the need, defining what success will look like and putting metrics in place to measure progress. Done well, this will result in a client who is ecstatic with the service they’re getting.
8. Celebrating when you secure an interview. Securing an interview is great, but it’s only the first in a series of steps towards your end goal. So hold your celebratory horses until the coverage is actually published. Things fall through all the time. It’s tough enough dealing with the loss without the aftertaste of champagne in your mouth.
9. Taking it easy on your first day back after vacation. Your first day back at work isn’t an extension of your holiday. If anything, the opposite is true. Your inbox will likely contain an avalanche of emails all awaiting your immediate attention. Figure out a plan of action and get cracking. Don’t first have a lengthy coffee slash photo sharing catch-up with your colleagues.
10. Opting to can a story after its been pitched. If you think a story isn’t going to work, the best time to flag your concerns is before you pitch it. Failing earth-shattering events, once it’s been pitched you need to make it happen. If holes in the story are revealed after the fact you need to dig deep. Now’s the time to show yourself as a solver of problems, someone who can find a new angle at the drop of a hat and won’t stop until the piece has been published.
Succeeding as an account manager isn’t easy. It’s a tough job that invariably comes with zero training. You’re pretty much expected to hit the ground running. But keep these pointers in mind and you should avoid getting too many ‘roasties’.
Heather Baker is founder and CEO of TopLine Comms, a video, SEO and integrated marketing consultancy that places equal importance on client service, creativity and a good coffee. She’s a PR pundit, obsessed with inbound marketing, and can spot an errant comma a mile off.
Photo: You shouldn't have done that via Shutterstock