Tag Archives: career

I’m Not Just the President…I’m Also a Client!

“I’m not only the president…I’m also a client”
– Sy Sperling, president, Hair Club for Men ca. 1989

There is no greater endorsement of a product than your own personal investment in it. When I started working as the senior communications associate at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, a US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence that serves 900+ students, I was familiar with its reputation as an outstanding independent Jewish school. Once I got there, I saw why.

The Challenge

How do you effectively sell a product that you haven’t bought, especially when you are the target audience?

At that point, my own children were enrolled at a different school. The longer I worked at BT, the more I appreciated the quality of the education the school offered, the more I wanted my own children to benefit from that kind of educational environment. Their transfer to BT changed their lives…and mine.

I was no longer just a communications associate…I was now also a client.

Rina and Shani '15

With my daughter, Shani ’15

I then truly began to understand the school’s mission — “Learning together. For life.” — from a whole new perspective — not just as a communications professional who promotes the brand to current and prospective parents, but as a parent watching her children flourish academically, socially and spiritually while being welcomed into the community as a fellow parent, not just as a staff member. That experience transformed my role as a communications professional, allowing me to not just promote school’s brand, but to tell its story, understanding its value and impact from the perspective of the people we’re trying to reach: parents.

Moving Through the Funnel

With Rivi '19

With Rivi ’19

Beth Tfiloh is not only an independent Jewish school, it is also the largest Modern Orthodox synagogue in the United States. While I transferred my girls to the school three years ago, I was still a member at another synagogue a mile away. Balancing the marketing demands of a large school is enough to keep me busy — add in the needs of a large synagogue, it can be quite a challenge.

Each weekend, the synagogue offers a multitude of programs for children, pre-teens, teens and adults, all designed to help them experience the beauty and meaning of the Jewish Sabbath in a personal, warm way, regardless of their level of religious affiliation. Some weekends, there are communal meals; others offer a different style of prayer or a guest speaker addressing a hot topic in the Jewish community. Each initiative aims to bring in community members and make them feel at home.

Ahuva ’24

Before I was a member, I promoted those services mechanically, without any personal understanding or connection. Once I joined and started attending services regularly, I saw the energy and excitement both kids and adults alike felt about Sabbath services, and the sense of community created through those services. I’m not just selling a religious service; I’m inviting others to share in what I experience each week. That connection informs my communication strategies and implementation, making me a more effective communicator while also helping me grow professionally — today, I am Beth Tfiloh’s Assistant Director of Communications.

The Lesson: Buy In!

If you are going to devote 8+ hours a day to selling a product or service, find one that you can really get behind personally. Your message will be far more compelling and authentic if you are a satisfied customer — or volunteer, or donor — than if you are just killing 8 hours a day to earn a paycheck.

Rina GoloskovRina Goloskov is the Assistant Director of Communications at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School/Beth Tfiloh Congregation, using her nearly two decades of communications experience to manage the brand of both a US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence that serves 900+ students, as well as a 2,000-family Jewish congregation, across multiple marketing channels: website, social media, print and radio advertising, direct mail, and e-mail. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Touro College and is currently pursuing a combined MA in Communications and Certificate in Non-Profit Management at Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs. Contact or network with her on LinkedIn.

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5 Tips to Working with Clients

I recently watched an excellent documentary called Tokyo Waka. During the film, there was an observation about the rhythm and metabolism of cities. Having just moved to a new city, I loved this way of looking at an urban setting. Each city has its pace, its beat, its metabolism.

This holds true of many jobs, industries and careers as well. Communications is fast, complex, always moving, has short and long term effects and microcosms within its vast landscape.

In my communications career, I have almost solely worked in client service. The rhythm of client service is different than working within communications at an organization. I alluded to this in a previous post.

What are some considerations to remember when working with clients to create a healthy relationship?

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a start. Many of this also applies to what organizations should consider when selecting a communications firm.

1. Trust your gut

Working with clients is much like dating. Upon your first meeting, trust your gut. It knows if the relationship is going to be positive after the first meeting.  This gut feeling goes both ways. In the interview, get to know each other. If you can, meet in person. We do a lot over the phone at Visceral, but it’s harder to dissect chemistry unless you are in person. Can’t meet in person? Try Google hangout. Ask yourself, can you spend months working with these people

2. Be partners

Your clients are your partners. As a client, your firm is your partner. People will disagree with me here but, the relationship is not hierarchical. Establishing the roles and responsibilities early on helps with this. You are experts for the reasons the client hired you. The client is an expert in their organization and likely much more. Feed off of each other. Respect that the client is paying you but don’t start bowing at their feet at every request.

3. Challenge each other

As a firm, your job is to encourage your clients to try new things and view things from a different perspective. Your job is not always to say yes at every request. It is also not to always say no. Challenge your clients and always have a reason for doing so. At Visceral, we believe that often the simplest solution is the best. This does not mean the easiest. It may not be the first solution that comes about, and it may not be the one the client wants immediately. For every recommendation we have, we have the information to back it up. Know when to push. Know when to step back.

4. Listen & Don’t take it personally

Sometimes your recommendation will go forward. Sometimes it won’t. When it doesn’t, you might feel defeated. Let yourself feel that way but don’t take it personally and try not to view your client as a competitor. Partners, remember? Know that you did your job, and it didn’t align with their desires. Make it known to them that their decision to go against your recommendation may have consequences and impact on the viability of the program or product. Then move on and smile.

5. Talk to each other 

We are communicators so make sure you talk to your clients and that as a client, you talk to your firm. Is something not working out? Are you not quite getting the information you need to make the project as effective as it could be? Are you displeased with the design that you are seeing? Bring it up. Again, dating/relationship nourishment. If you expect the other half to interpret your discontent, you are going to get into trouble. You won’t get what you want, resentment will build, money will be burned and the relationship will tarnish. Pick up the phone, meet for a coffee. Talk it out. After all, it’s your job to communicate clearly.

Oh, and… Have fun! (Maybe there are 6 tips then!)

You get to work with different groups of people. You get to feed off of each other’s intelligence and creativity. Enjoy the process. If you enter the relationship with any contention, it won’t be fun. Be excited about the group and project that you get to work with.

What do you find makes for a good client – firm relationship? Are their specific things that you look for in a firm? Teamwork, involvement of senior staff?

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Digital Communications & the PR Agency – Learn to be a Unicorn

I hope that one day, we will no longer be distinguishing between communications and digital communications because we are far beyond the point where there is a distinction to make.

There is no PR and digital PR. What makes all communications digital is that people consume information in print, on TV, online via all kinds of devices. Brands, organizations and corporations are now telling their stories through all these channels. The big challenge is how to do so effectively, efficiently and cohesively.

So what does this mean from the perspective of the PR agency?

During my time in a PR agency, I was part of a digital communications group. Unlike other groups in the agency that were focused on health care or public affairs or specific disciplines, our work crossed all those areas. If there was a client served from the public affairs group, they might have a “digital need” like a website or an online press release. When that need came up, the public affairs group would call us in and ask us our advice. The conversation usually went something like this:

 “We are developing a campaign with so and so. We need an online press release with PRWeb, a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter channel. Can you build that for the launch next week?”

“Hmmm. Well, can you back up for a moment and give us a background on the client, the goals and objectives of the campaign?”

This happened over and over again. Things have since changed where I was, but you get it. Digital was an after thought. This prevailed throughout not just our agency, but the industry.

There was a constant tug o’ war between digital and the rest of the agency. In my opinion, both sides were at fault. The rest of the agency for not understanding that it was a different realm, one that didn’t have the same timelines (you can’t always build a website in a day the same way you can write a press release), was ever-changing and was different to measure than what had existed to date AND digital for being reticent to teach the PR world about the new technologies. We, and I was at fault of this too, were very proprietary about our Facebook or blogging knowledge when these technologies were new. As if it was a secret that only the cool kids could know. Enough of the Mean Girls back and forth. It was killing our business one tweet at a time. A blog is a blog is a blog. A professional can learn what it is and understand with  proper training around its benefits and risks.

Can digital work in a PR agency?

Cultural & Business

Yes, it can but only when digital is not considered separate from everything else. I saw things begin to change once education initiatives were put into place across the agency to teach employees about the new technologies (Facebook, Twitter etc.). Did everyone become a digital expert? No. But they began to learn enough to start to bring in the right people earlier on in the process.

Examining this from the business perspective presents a different answer to the question though. In the agency model  services are billed by the hour. Depending on how your agency does it, your rate will defer by your role. So, what do you do as an agency now that roles are changing?

For example, what is one going to do with a technical developer who writes code all day long or a junior professional who monitors online communities all day. They aren’t really an account executive or an account manager. And yet, in my experience, those were the titles they were forcibly given and the rates that they were billed at. However, coding for 9 hours a day at said rate was often not logical. It’s not that their work was any more or less valuable than other agency professionals, but the time distribution for them was different.

My evaluation of this – and I am not a business expert – is that if agencies want to have resources with very technical skills, you need to set up a different fee structure. Not doing so will eventually cause you to price yourself out of that specific piece of the market (in this particular example). While they are at it, they should get rid of the stodgy titles too. They don’t fit the current landscape and job descriptions.

As an agency, you can either change your fee structure,  hope that your clients don’t care that you are billing them at 3 times the rate they could get some where else for the same work (hint: they will figure it out) or you can choose to not have those resources in house and  create some valuable partnerships with external vendors.

It’s the choice of the agency. One that seems quite obvious from an external perspective, but one that I have seen a lot of agencies fail at figuring out because they are too set in their ways and fees to be flexible.

How does the agency professional succeed in this environment?

Be nimble. It’s a word I use a lot, but one that is important. Communications will never stop evolving. If you are a professional or agency that is stuck in its ways, you are already behind. This can cost you a lot more than a few lost hits. It can cost you your entire business.

At Visceral we have a saying that we all need to be Unicorns.

It means that while it is good to be an expert in one thing and know it well, it’s important to have a strong understanding of a lot of areas – the full rainbow. Unicorns are known as symbols of strength and agility. It’s the interdisciplinary approach that is taken in academics and applying it across your career in any industry is essential. It allows you to be resourceful in the way you approach your projects and also in the way that you answer that question when you know you don’t know.

As a communications professional, you should be well versed in all areas of communications. This means having multi-disciplinary skill sets that allow you to understand public relations, advertising, multi-media (video, radio). Know these elements and how they can help solve your clients business problems, not just their communications problems. I can tell you, that while I have minimal experience with the most traditional of PR, I have written a press release (a handful of times and probably only because of JHU) and pitched media (thanks to my internship at FH). Do I like it? No. Have I done it? Yes. BE A UNICORN.

I’d be curious to hear of your experiences with digital and PR or other communications areas? What are some of your challenges, successes, failures?

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What to bring to an agency?

As a former mid-size agency employee, I’ll give you my take – via the next few posts –  on what it is like to work at an agency. You need to know that every agency will have its own culture and structure so these learnings come from just one perspective.

I can share that while I never one bit felt like I was in Mad Men, agency life is not dull. You’ll get exposed to a lot and if you aren’t sure what industry you are looking for or where you want to go with your communications career, it is an excellent place to start to determine where your interests and strengths are. Here are just some characteristics that are useful in an agency environment:

Creative Demand. There is never a “typical” day. You may be brainstorming campaign slogans one day for a food industry client and social media strategy another day for a government organization. This keeps things interesting and also encourages a constant flow of creativity.

Flexibility. Many agencies have different practice areas (health care, government relations, consumer brands etc.) and employees are part of one area but serve multiple clients at one time. One day you may have to be up to your ears in health care policy while the next day you may be involved in developing ideas for how to market a robot vacuum. This requires you to be nimble and transition from one subject matter to the next with ease. You need to be able to display knowledge in the respective subject matter like you have studied it for weeks. Except you had 20 minutes before the meeting with the client. It’s fun but it’s challenging.

Loads of Initiative. Your job is to make stuff happen. Show initiative internally and to your clients. You are providing services to your clients. This means you need to develop a constant flow of ideas that form themselves into strategies that you get to sell and eventually execute for your client to make them look amazing. You need to be one step ahead of your client and their thinking so that they remember that they need you do help them do their work well.

Know how to say you don’t know. At some point, you’ll have a client ask you something and you won’t have a clue as to what the answer is. That’s okay but be prepared for how to answer this well. Don’t pretend you know. Don’t lie. Don’t make something up. Say that you’ll consult with your team and get back to them with the information. Say that you’ll do research to determine the best solution. Say that your dog ate the answer. Don’t over promise. You’ll come back strong and armed with the right and true information and everyone will be better off.

Hours + more hours. Settle in because you are in for some serious hours. As an intern, I was not allowed to work more than a set number of hours per week (pure bliss) but the moment I became full time, I was in for the long haul. It was hard, but it’s also when I learned the most. Dive right in and soak it all up. You’ll learn a ton.

Agency life can be rewarding. It is often challenging and it is never dull. It was the best place for me to launch my career because of the exposure to so many different types of projects.

If you are considering work at an agency, speaking to friends who have worked at agencies (everyone’s experience will be a bit different) and getting an informational interview is always a good start!

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