Monday, March 31, 2008

Conversation. Links. Us. March Thanks!

Conversation does link us, and links fuel the conversation. And of course without conversation, a blog isn't blog at all. With this in mind, on the first of each month I'll continue my tradition of celebrating the conversation and those who contributed to it during the prior month by offering my profound thanks and posting links.

As I recall, I began my monthly thank yous after seeing David Maister do it. David has a terrific blog because he hosts a great conversation, due I'm sure in no small part to the fact that he faithfully expresses his gratitude to his participants each and every month. I appreciate the time you spend reading and commenting more than you possibly know. I also understand the time so many of you spend writing your own blogs, and I do my best to read and comment as I am able. One thing for sure is that every time I read your blogs, I always learn something new.

As you know, I only got started again on March 21st, so I'm extremely grateful to those of you who hopped on board so quickly. The list not only includes the names of people who left comments/trackbacks, but also several others who were generous enough to announce the return of CSI/Season 2 through their own blog posts/tweets. I look forward to many great conversations ahead! Thank you to:

Todd Andrlik, Kami Huyse, Scott Baradell, Sherrilynne Starkie, Steve Cody, John Koetsier, TechnoTwists, Michelle Golden, Katherine Howbrook, Martin Lynch, Chris Mitchell, Todd Defren, Patrick J. Lamb, Mark Ragan, Brian Keith, and Kelli Matthews.

If your name should be on this list for the month of March, please let me know, and I'll be sure to add you immediately. On to April!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Client Typology?

I came across a post on Brian Keith's blog yesterday referencing an article he wrote for SCBJ on March 26th titled: What Type of Client Are You? He outlines four client types including full-service, focused, concierge, and planning and offers helpful illustrations for each.

While I plan to dedicate my post on Tuesday to thanking/linking all those who offered comments, trackbacks, and support with their own blog posts and tweets during my short month of blogging in March, I'll focus on leadership and client service during the remainder of the week.

I think Brian's article offers some terrific insights. As a client, it's helpful to be honest with ourselves and assess what kind of client we are and what we truly want out of our client/agency engagement. For the agency, if you're going to play a leadership role on the business, it may help to know what "type" of client you're working with.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


During the middle of last week, Todd Andrlik and I were swapping e-mails about how we should collaborate on promoting "Talk Like a Pirate Day" in September. Silly stuff. On Friday morning, I (among Todd's other blogger friends) woke up to an e-mail from Todd explaining that his sister Tricia would require immediate major surgery. He asked simply for ideas to raise money to help the family pay for the exorbitant costs associated with such a procedure and the lengthy treatment that will follow. Serious business.

When I arrived at the office, I sent an e-mail to the Mullen PR team explaining the situation, and I asked that before the day's events begin to take over their lives to think about Todd's sister and offer their ideas. To Todd, I hope even one of those ideas is helpful, and to the Mullen PR team, I can't thank you enough for stepping up and responding as you did.

I don't have to explain to anyone how quickly life can change. We've all experienced it. But it was refreshing to witness the depth and breadth of human kindness I saw yesterday. That said, Todd is an extraordinary young man who personifies generosity. Just look at his blog to see how much of himself he pours into it for our collective benefit. Because of who he is as a person, the heartfelt response to Todd was not surprising. There were many bloggers, most of whom have far more reach than I, who really stepped up. It was wonderful to watch.

As many of you know, Tricia's surgery is scheduled for today. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, and consider reaching out to your team next week. Ask them to read Todd's post and visit 4Tricia. Anything they could offer will be deeply appreciated. You can donate at 4Tricia, send ideas to Todd via e-mail, or leave your ideas as comments on his post so as to trigger others to respond as well. Every little bit helps.

Mother Teresa once said, "We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Impossible Promo Approval Guy

After suffering through the likes of Idi Amin yesterday, I thought it fitting to end the week with a radio spoof of Bud's Real Men of Genius campaign - one that includes a client service twist. Enjoy your weekend!

Client Service and Idi Amin

You may be asking yourself, "Where is he going with this one?" In the post from a few days ago titled Followership, we covered the issue of speaking truth to power. But is it enough just to speak it, or do you have to actually be successful at it? How far can and should you push your point of view?

In the movie The Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker portrayed Ugandan President Idi Amin in a story about a young Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who was bored with the family practice at home so he travels to Uganda, and as fate would have it, meets Amin. Impressed by the young doctor, Amin asks him to be his personal physician. Nicholas welcomes his new position.

As the confidant/client relationship grew over time, Amin would consult with Nicholas on a broad range of matters. (Here's where it gets interesting). There is a terrific portion of the film when Nicholas is consulted about whether to expel the Asians from Uganda, and he strongly urges against it. Amin dismisses his advice, moves forward despite Nicholas' counsel, and the results are as disastrous as Nicholas had predicted.

Following the debacle, Amin was enraged at Nicholas, blaming him for the failure. A stunned Nicholas replied, "I told you NOT to do it." To which Amin responded, "Yes, but you failed to convince me." It was a scene that left Nicholas and the audience in stunned silence.

This may sound a bit twisted, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Amin had a point. There's a lesson here. Could Nicholas have really stopped Amin from doing what he wanted to do? In that situation, probably not. In Nicholas' defense I thought he made a pretty strong case. However, under many circumstances one CAN effect change in high stakes situations if they truly care enough to do so.

It's not enough to speak truth to power in a "check off the box," CYA sort of way. If you're going to bother to speak the truth; if you're going to truly put yourself on the line for the good of your client, then know what will move your audience and make your case in a manner that is compelling and convincing. Act with the same level of conviction as if the fate of your own company hangs in the balance.

I should confess that The Last King of Scotland metaphor may not be the best example. It doesn't actually work out too well for Amin or Nicholas. I'm banking on the fact that your client is no Idi Amin, and you will bring better judgment to the table than young Dr. Garrigan.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Followership Part Deux!

Spiritual life and leadership coach Carolyn D. Townes wrote a terrific post called Good Followers Make Great Leaders. In it, she quotes the writings of Dr. Adalat Khan who notes the qualities followers should have to be of greatest assistance to the success of leaders. They include:

Understand, Support, and Work for the Leader’s Vision
Followers should understand and accurately comprehend their leader’s vision. They must also commit themselves to support that vision. One difficulty which could crop in this regard is the possibility of conflict between the followers and a leader’s vision. To plug this gap, followers should align their vision with that of their leader’s.

Help the Leader to Succeed
Followers can either be like fuel providing energy or roadblocks creating hurdles for the efforts of a leader. Good followers however help the leader to succeed and do whatever it takes to achieve success. Having a winner’s mentality and deriving pleasure form the leader’s success is a quality to be possessed by them.

Provide Open, Honest and Accurate Information
Most of the leaders base their decisions on the information provided to them by their followers. If these information are accurate and honest it will lead to good decision. Conversely, inaccurate and dishonest information will lead to terrible decisions.

A Positive and Can Do Attitude
The phrase ‘recruit for attitude and train for skills’ is highly relevant for all followers. Sometimes when faced with difficulties even great leaders lose hope - during which times the followers could help them by reminding and reassuring them that they could succeed. It is a fact that all human being are capable of doing anything but only those succeed who possess the can do attitude.

Learning Attitude
Learning, the ability to understand one’s limitations, the courage to unlearn negative ideas and beliefs and the desire to acquire new knowledge, skills, and attitude is yet another quality necessary for good followers. To keep pace with the fast changing world of today people need to update themselves with new knowledge.

Townes closes by paraphrasing John Maxwell: the leader who thinks he leads and has no one following, is only taking a walk.

One could easily replace leaders and followers with clients and consultants. The qualities listed above offer excellent guidance for both.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I came across an article that may make you think differently about the challenges of followership and its relevance to client service. Warren Bennis' article titled Followership notes:

"What makes a good follower? The most important characteristic may be a willingness to tell the truth. In a world of growing complexity, leaders are increasingly dependent on their subordinates for good information, whether the leaders want to hear it or not. Followers who tell the truth, and leaders who listen to it, are an unbeatable combination.

"Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn seems to have had a gut-level awareness of the importance of what I call "effective backtalk" from subordinates. After a string of box-office flops, Mr. Goldwyn called his staff together and told them: 'I want you to tell me exactly what's wrong with me and MGM, even if it means losing your job.'"

Let's face it, the same holds true for outside counsel of any kind advising a client. The only question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we selfless enough and courageous enough to speak truth to power, even if it means losing the client? When have you been faced with that dilemma, and how have you responded?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Linkedin To Client Service

On Friday, I posted a question on Linkedin that I left open for just a few days, and considering it was a holiday weekend, I received a terrific response and some very thoughtful answers. The question was: How do you define client service excellence?

The answers focused squarely on issues such as the importance of mutually agreed upon objectives, meeting and exceeding expectations, excellent documentation and reporting, relationship building, responding quickly, etc. What struck me about the answers wasn't the particulars, but the tendency to describe client service excellence in terms of followership rather than leadership.

That's not a criticism. In fact great followership is an important component of delivering excellent client service. Barbara Kellerman teaches a course at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government called Followership. The course module is described as having two fundamental purposes: to provide a greater theoretical understanding of the critical, indeed equal, role followers play in creating change; and to provide practical pointers on how to play this particular part, the part of follower, wisely and well.

I also found an interesting book by Robert Kelly titled The Power of Followership (Available in our Client Service Titles For You). I especially like the subhead which reads: How to Create Leaders People Want to Follow and Followers Who Lead Themselves. (Sounds like our job in a nutshell, doesn't it?)

So what do you think about followership as framed by Kellerman and Kelly? Would it be fair to say that as PR professionals we tend to describe client service excellence too much on followership terms? If so, could we be better at it if we thought about it differently?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Client Service Titles For You!

I spent a good part of my day today trying think of ways CSI Season 2 could offer some additional value. Here's one idea I'll share with you now. Back when first began its associates program in 1996, Bottary & Partners Public Relations actually participated in it. It was a simple, but brilliant effort by to extend its brand. At the time, my firm wanted to be considered "the" PR resource in our market for all that was public relations, not to mention demonstrate some level of sophistication in the fledgling world of internet commerce. Given the primary focus of this blog, I thought it made perfect sense to tap its vast resources once again.

I will say that it's easier than it was more than 10 years ago. As you scroll down, you'll find our Amazon widget that provides easy access to client service related book titles for your perusal. Over time, I not only want to make the list more robust, but also offer reviews, invite commentary, and help sort through the very best client service resources in print today. Your participation and insights will be crucial to its eventual value!

Client Service Insights - Season Premiere

As many of you may remember from Season 1, I often like to pick a topic for the week, largely because client service is a worthwhile conversation, and it helps to give busy people an opportunity to join in the dialogue. The season premiere will discuss our tendency to think of client service as followership versus leadership.

We live in a world where the population will grow from 6.6 billion to more than 9 billion in our lifetime. By 2020, the global economy will swell by 75%, and whether you think the world is small and getting smaller as described by the Sherman brothers or flat as penned by Thomas Friedman, it's changing - and changing fast!

The fact is, we need to be good followers and good leaders. On Monday, let's dive head first into followership!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tis the Season 2

For those of you who remember our first season, I started Client Service Insights (CSI) as part of Hill & Knowlton's Collective Conversation. I owe a great deal to Niall Cook and the countless others who got me started and provided a great deal of encouragement along the way.

Much has changed since my brief hiatus from blogging. I completed my Master's program at Seton Hall University and have moved back home to New England to join Mullen - an integrated firm with a terrific public relations practice.

Now that I'm done with graduate school and settled in to my new position, it seems the perfect time to relaunch Client Service Insights (CSI). For those of you who remember the original blog, we included interviews and commentaries from top executives, including Colleen Barrett (President of Southwest Airlines), David Sifry (Founder and CEO of Technorati) and Jonathan Tisch (Chairman and CEO of Loew's Hotels) , and PR leaders such as Ray Kotcher, Richard Edelman, Helen Ostrowski, Paul Taaffe, and many others. We featured book reviews, client service spoofs, special coverage of the annual client service surveys conducted by The Holmes Report and PRWeek, and of course our Halloween contest, where contestants shared their scariest client service stories to win their favorite horror film.

In Season 2, we hope to bring you all this and more. I also invite and encourage your input regarding how CSI Season 2 can best drive the conversation on client service. We look forward to your joining us!


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