The question “who heals the healer” may come up many times in numerous professions that focus on serving others and often tend to forget about themselves. In communication, this is even more visible when brilliant agencies deliver outstanding work for clients, but their own websites often refuse to work.
What’s the solution? Kerrie Finch, a Dutch communication advisor and the founder of FinchFactor, decided to heal the healers. She is building brands for those who know best how to do it: the brand builders.
Finch set up her communication agency in 2008. FinchFactor offers communication advisory and services to agencies that need an expert who “concentrates on the job in hand.” “It doesn't matter so much where [the advisor] sits. That person can either be an employee, a freelancer, or a PR company brought on board to offer strategic counsel. The key is to offer an excellent skill set that the client simply doesn't have in-house,” she said. ‘The key is to offer an excellent skill set that the client simply doesn't have in-house.’
“A lot of creative agencies are busy creating superb brand campaigns for their clients, but they don't have time to build their own reputation or even see that this is required, in order to influence the clients they are looking to attract. That's where we come in - everything we do is about business development. If it's not helping the client grow, what's the point?” Finch noted.
Knowing when to push back
Asked whether it isn’t challenging to provide advisory services to someone who is himself an expert in reputation management, Finch said that work is more about partnership than competition. “We are not ‘nodding dogs’ or a ‘press release machine.’ We offer so much more and therefore know when to push back. It’s all part of the process. I want to work with people I respect because ultimately we are dealing in reputations - ours at FinchFactor as much as the client’s. I have to feel engaged and attracted to what we’re doing, or I won’t do it. Authenticity is everything,” she said.
One client pointed it out to her that FinchFactor builds the brand of the brand builders. “We manage the reputation and build the credibility of creative agencies because they have their eye on another ball — their client brand,” she said. FinchFactor is also working with brands directly such as Diageo, Honda and Piet Boon, an interior furniture designer.
Challenges for com agencies
Some of the most important challenges communication agencies are focused on currently is the increasing demand for complex cross-border projects from the side of customers. “A lot of agencies want to work regionally or internationally, as well as locally. But this takes more than just deciding to say that. There is a mind-shift involved,” Fitch described the process.
Many questions open when an agency is engaging into such a project. Is the staff internationally minded? Do people have experience of working with more than one culture? Are the clients from your own backyard, or are they internationally-focused? Is the collective experience-pool able to handle it? “This can be a challenge — helping a client realize sometimes that, whilst drive and ambition is good, it has to be based in reality and know-how to make it work,” she said.
Another challenge communication agencies are facing is sometimes the departure of key creative people who take important deals and clients away with them. Her advice is simple: business is business. “Try not to take it personally. Unless of course it’s very personal! The great work that an agency has created will always sit with that agency; no one can take that away. Think forwards — and fail forwards. What strengths do you have right now? Think strategically about the guns in your arsenal and be on the front foot,” she said.
A surge of diversity
When asked about different mentalities and views on communication across Europe, Finch said that there are numerous differences visible across regions. Some countries are more experienced than others in the business of reputation management and brand communications, and this means there is an opportunity to learn fast.
“Generally, I think people are hungry for knowledge and want to be the very best they can be. We can help them get there,” she said. “Europe doesn't have a single pool to play in. It's a collection of lily-pads. We know how to jump between them and swim strong between them. The more creative companies who can reach across borders the better, I think,” she concluded.
Kerry Finch gave a lecture on how to build a premium reputation for communication agencies at the Prague International Advertising Festival (PIAF) on April 25. What Czech communicators will take with them and how this will transform the local communication market – that’s a long-term process ahead of us all.