Years ago we resigned a big brand account in the consumer electronics space.
I think the statute of limitations has run out, 10+ years, so I can share the name. You’ve probably heard of them. Sony. At the time we supported their consumer electronics business in the U.S. handling their video camcorders, cameras and laptops.
The account encapsulated the worst of both worlds, a vendor-supplier dynamic out of the Procurement 101 Handbook and repetitive tasks that had the team feeling they had landed on a General Motors assembly line in the 1950s.
After losing two members of the account team in less than year — even a NYC press event with Bobby Flay whipping up fish tacos with a mango salsa as journalists videotaped him did nothing for morale — a line had been drawn. What did I value more? Our employees or a prestigious account with a hefty budget?
The Root of the Problem
Naturally, I investigated whether it might be possible for both to be true. Unfortunately, a deep dive into the account revealed a massive chasm between what Sony wanted in its PR agency and what we wanted in a client.
I made the trek to San Diego to deliver the news to the head of Sony’s in-house PR team. Taking the diplomatic path, I explained why we had decided to exit from the account with the overarching message being the wonderfully vague “not a good fit.” I also remember trying to work in a secondary message, “It’s not you. It’s us.”
She wasn’t having it.
I tried to stay on message. I really did.
But she kept coming at me from all directions and with what started as a passive aggressive tone becoming just flat-out aggressive.
I cracked finally and cut to the core issue:
“You don’t need a PR agency. What you really need is a call center.”
At this point, a rather spirited discussion ensued. I seemed to have hit a nerve. She eventually brought the dialogue to a close with this zinger:
“Lou, you know what your problem is?”
In the split second pause, I’m thinking, a) She doesn’t really want me to answer the question, so keep quiet, and b) I’m aware of my flaws, but have a hunch I’m about to learn a new one.
“Your problem is you take business things personally.”
In those eight words, she perfectly captured the disconnect.
If you care, you do take things personally.
I actually think this characteristic of taking things personally helps to differentiate the Agency.
And that care is one of the driver’s behind our staff going above and beyond to support clients. It’s what causes one of our account folks to see a client opportunity over the weekend that calls for immediate attention and jumps into action. It’s what pushes our account teams to continually look for a better way.
We do take things personally.
You got a problem with that?