Who’s who trumps who’s that

Today's post is dedicated to Peppercom President, Ted "IPN" Birkhahn.

Il_fullxfull.373478mm271_2a90As we compete against more and more global agencies, I'm often asked by prospective clients about our breadth and depth.

“I'm really impressed with what I've heard so far, but we need feet on the ground in markets such as Vietnam and Kazakhstan,” a chief communications officer will declare.

I'll pause, and then respond by asking if he needs bodies or minds. That usually produces a pause on his part, followed by a statement along the lines of “Well, we'll be calling the shots here in Oshkosh, but we need to be sure the messaging is consistently communicated in all key markets."

And, that provides me with my opening. “Well, as a global agency veteran, I can assure you that consistency isn't exactly the calling card of many international firms. Sure, they'll have offices in 62 countries. But, each specializes in a different field. So, Milan may be world class in say, fashion PR, but good luck having them communicate a global re-brand for a multinational industrial powerhouse like yours.”

I then point to the team surrounding me at the conference room table, and tell the prospect what he already knows. “Whether it's with us, another independent midsized firm or a global powerhouse, your relationship will be with the precious few who constitute your day-to-day account team. And, what you see today is what you'll get tomorrow: a ‘who's who’ team that's worked together in the past to solve the same challenge you just described. What you buy with a global firm is a ‘who's that’ goulash of PR types with all sorts of previous experience and media contacts- experience and contacts that may, or may not, align with your needs.”

Make no mistake, though: global campaigns that merely require implementation SHOULD be enacted by the large holding companies. But, I'm seeing more and more clients selecting smart, midsized firms who, through their carefully vetted international partner networks, can assemble a sector-specific, who's who team in Vietnam, Kazakhstan, or anywhere else for that matter.

If I were a client, I'd want a who's who team advising me on a strategic program across 25 countries; not a who's that group who, while they may draw their paychecks from the same holding company, have more areas of "expertise" than the Balkans have states.

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