Account Madness - Renée Stekel, Principals

By AdNews | 14 May 2024
Renee Stekel.

This series of articles looks at the world of the account manager.

This time we talk to Renée Stekel, Business Director at Principals

How did you end up in account management? Was it by design or a cosmic accident?

A bit of both! I knew I wanted a career that was creative and after university, I travelled Europe and found myself doing a three-month stint in London. I landed a temporary gig in reception at a strategic design agency that was, at the time, part of M&C Saatchi. I fell head over heels for everything about agency life: the culture, the work, the pace, the energy and creativity. I felt certain I didn’t want to be a designer, so I naturally leaned into the account management side of things. I wanted the opportunity to run projects and build relationships as well as be part of the creative process.

Balancing clients’ objectives and creative vision can be challenging. How do you deal with that?

The key is having a strong strategic insight that helps drive the creative vision. Then it’s about clear communication and making sure you bring everyone on the journey. Clients are brilliant at providing the information and background we need at the start, however, it’s then our expertise that can distil that information down to uncover what it is we’re really trying to solve for them. Once we have a strategic hypothesis, this can drive the creative vision and ultimately help to lift the outcomes out of subjectivity.

What strategies do you employ to clearly convey creative ideas to clients andaddress client feedback?

Presenting creative ideas to clients is most successful when it’s part of a bigger story driven from a single organising idea or what we call a ‘brand idea’. This idea is part of a bigger strategic framework that underpins creative concepts and helps clients to understand how the visual or verbal expression they are seeing ladders up to their brand strategy (the what, how and why of their organisation). This helps clients to judge the work constructively – i.e. Is it expressing the idea in the most successful way, does it reflect the positioning, personality and values of the organisation?

How to build strong relationships with clients?

Building strong relationships with clients (or anyone!) is about trust. And building trust with clients comes from delivering reliable, high-value results and creating an enjoyable experience for them while doing it. This can be through any interaction we have with them from an email to the agenda and facilitation of a meeting or the final outcome of a high-profile project.

Do you have any go-to tips for navigating challenging conversations with clients? And effectively selling an idea.

Prepare for it (what is your ideal outcome of the conversation).

Have the conversation as early as possible.

Listen and understand their point of view.

Aim to find a solution you can agree on.

Follow up with them afterwards to continue to build trust.

Are there any emerging trends or challenges in the industry that account management teams should be prepared for?

Of course, AI seems to be the biggest trend/challenge/opportunity facing ways of working in the future. It feels like the best approach we can take is to embrace it and look into ways it can enable us to do our jobs better. Essentially, we need to stay curious and open-minded to learn how we can make it work for us.

 What advice would you give your younger self when you first started out in account service?

Account management is a term that does not represent the diversity and expertise of the role, in my opinion. Being a brilliant account manager is so much more than ‘managing’ client accounts. If you love wearing many different hats, applying a strategic, creative and financial lens to everything you do, being able to think critically and problem solve and you’re a people person who thrives on building networks and relationships, then it’s the career path for you!

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