Teamwork's great - but not always. Account director Luke Bull, of Kenilworth's Quicksilver PR has his say...
Many PR and marketing agencies often say the same things when talking to prospective clients - "we're proactive not reactive", "we're results led" and probably most commonly of all, "we offer a team approach".
It's a "given" that for many clients a range of skills and experience will be valuable -particularly for large campaigns involving multiple aspects of the marketing mix - and that in those instances more than one person will need to be assigned to their account.
However, it would be wrong for clients to assume that a greater number of account handlers on their account automatically equates to a commensurate increase in the quality or quantity of work they receive.
In fact the converse can often to be true as the larger the team, the more time they will of necessity spend on internal meetings (both before and after the regular client meetings if they do not all attend) and progress checking, rather than actually looking after the client and delivering to the brief.
In many cases, the "team" can become less than the sum of its parts.
Furthermore, not all tasks require a team approach and involving more than one person on basic day to day tasks not only wastes time but rarely adds value to the client.
The fact is that not everyone working in PR, marketing and design, is a team player or should be expected to be one.
In the creative industries, "mavericks" represent some of the best talent around - and a light management touch is all that's needed to ensure they consistently deliver what the client wants.
What's more, in a people-focused sector, relationship building is fundamental, and many clients are keen to build a relationship with one individual whom they can trust: having numerous individuals on their account can hinder the relationship and cause confusion ("Oh, so-and-so's handling that, but she's not here").
If the expected results are being delivered, the size - or otherwise - of the resource should be an irrelevance - particularly when it comes to smaller campaigns or highly technical work.
With technical clients, it's vital for the account handler to assimilate as much knowledge as possible about the client and what they do. If one person is handling all - or at least the vast majority - of the work for that client, they will reach the required knowledge level far quicker.
Of course, the good agency will never leave account handlers isolated if they are working primarily on their own for a client.
A secondary contact needs to be available at times of peak activity or when that individual is away, and there is much to be said for team brainstorming as a way of unleashing new ideas, and drawing on the diverse skills and full range of experience of the consultancy's resources.
But even on very large accounts which do need more than one person to deliver the programme effectively, the client should be clear from the very start just who is responsible for what on a day to day basis.
In conclusion, teamwork certainly has its place but clients need to ensure that the relationship works the way they want it to - and if they want just one principal contact, the agency should offer that, regardless of whether others are working on the account.
As a final thought, if the team approach is consistently sold by the media industry as a "must have" to clients, then how do the numerous "oneman bands" in the sector survive and thrive?