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Going the distance

Client engagement is more than just a bucket of hours.

June 21, 2024

Katy Donkin

SVP, Business Director

Codeword recently celebrated a remarkable milestone: 12 years of partnership with Google. For the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of leading the Codeword Google team. From a modest group of 8, we’ve flourished into a dynamic team of over 45 exceptionally skilled individuals, collaborating with multiple Google teams and tackling a wildly diverse array of projects.

Google sets a famously high bar for its marketing, and both their company and ours have evolved a lot over the 12 years of working together. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way …

  1. Your clients juggle more than just you: It’s easy for agencies to get “project tunnel vision.” Agencies sometimes forget that we’re just one component of our clients’ busy schedule, so we need to constantly ask: How can we make their life easier? For example, who needs a formal brief? Let’s ask the right questions and draft it ourselves. If insights are scarce, let’s dig deep. Build the kind of relationship where the client can be candid about what they’re dealing with, so we can offer real help even if it isn’t perfectly aligned with a brief.
  2. Scopes aren’t written in stone (shhhh don’t tell procurement): We have lots of client engagement models, and the most popular is an always-on retainer. Our clients sketch out what they need, and we provide either a bucket of hours to bill against or a team scope that’s consistent month-to-month. It’s a model that’s built for flexibility instead of change orders. New clients often tell us, “We need your support, but we have no idea what the next 6-12 months look like.” Fear not! We’re adaptable. That rigid deliverables list in your contract? We’re willing to set it aside if you are, so we can be as fluid and fast as you need us to be.
  3. It’s OK (and sometimes good!) to break the 9-5 model: This one’s personal for me, as someone who manages a mostly US-based team from my home in New Zealand. We live in a world where I’m milliseconds away from my team, allowing remarkable flexibility. Some creatives have their best ideas and do their best work alone at night. PR professionals need to be early birds to stay ahead of the daily news cycle. Client leads need to be accessible during their clients’ working hours, even if they’re in a different time zone. When your team finds their groove in how they work, you’ll see some awesome perks: better balance, productivity, and morale all around.
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