The Ideal Client

Imagine the ideal client. Someone who, once you've proven yourself:
– allows you to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
– has seat at the table for you when the organization's strategic business decisions are being made.
– gives you full access to the senior thought leaders within the organization.
– celebrates your successes and commiserates with you when something goes wrong.
– stays loyal to you through thick and thin.

009 fixed by MadClients such as Monica Teague at Whirlpool, Tom Topinka at Genworth and Mike Kachel at Clifford Chance certainly fill the ideal client bill. But, when an employee recently cornered me at our 15th anniversary party and asked me to name my all-time favorite client, I volunteered the name of Allison Adams. 
Allison was my client at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School. Like Monica, Tom and Mike, Allison was a true strategic partner. But, where Allison truly separated herself from virtually every other client with whom I've worked was in her unswerving loyalty.

Allison, you see, went with me whenever I packed up and left a previous agency behind. So, when I bagged Earle Palmer Brown for Brouillard, Allison convinced her management to stick with me. And, when Ed and I bagged Brouillard to start Peppercom, Allison held steady. And, when Allison resigned, she took Peppercom along with her to UNC (after we’d had a falling out with her successor). Loyalty like that is virtually extinct in the modern business world.

We'd still be working with Allison if a certain dean hadn't decided to reallocate funds from public relations to fundraising (and how, I ask, does one fundraise without simultaneously raising awareness?). Oh well.

As Don Draper said in a recent Mad Men episode, "Accounts come and accounts go. That's the business we're in." Don's right of course. But, then again, Don Draper never met Allison Adams.

10 thoughts on “The Ideal Client

  1. the worst clients are those who have not done any media relations and believe their story should be on the cover of any publication. Another reason I should have launched: HIT magazine: where every story gets a placement.

  2. Point made, Ted. We have had very few clients who, like Allison, rolled up their sleeves and did the heavy lifting when it came to pitching the media.

  3. I was so happy to see Allison’s face after reading the title of your post. She remains one of my all-time favorite clients as well. As you pointed out, not only is she loyal, but she’s fair, level-headed and smart! Allison is also an expert networker–she keeps in touch with people with the best of intentions (i.e., not just for the sake of networking).

  4. I agree with everything in your post, Steve, but you left out one important point. Allison is also one of the best media relations professionals in the trade. Her ability to secure top-tier coverage year after year has always impressed me.

  5. One of my fondest memories of working with Allison was a call she made to me saying that one of the Duke faculty was complaining about a guy named Peter Palmer Brown. For those of you who don’t get the inside joke, Peter Engel worked for me at an agency named Earle Palmer Brown. The faculty member confused the two names. Trust me, it was funny at the time.