The Periodic PR Agency ...


Every agency person has experienced a client who adds what we’ll call “extra obstacles” to achieving success.

It’s not personal (usually).

Sometimes, it’s simply a byproduct of the company’s culture.

I’m reminded of a client whose management required report after report to the point that the reporting cost exceeded the doing-PR cost. Even after showing them a pie chart of the budget categorized by activities that generate visible results vs. activities that didn’t, nothing changed.

They wanted those bloody reports.

After going through this experience, I had a revelation. I thought winning over the client was totally an intellectual exercise. Show them the data, they would see my point and adjustments would be made accordingly.

I forgot that there’s always an emotional component to winning over a client to the agency’s point of view, especially if the client already believes in a counter position.

Taking this a step further, I’ve learned that strength of conviction can often be the most persuasive way to bring a client over to your way of thinking.

One of the best illustrations of “strength of conviction” comes from the movie “Jerry Maguire.”

I think the soliloquy “Help me help you” is right up there with Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.”  I know what I’m about to say is sacrilege, but Tom Cruise’s performance for 60 seconds matches Laurence Olivier for my money.

And when you can combine the right words – the right storytelling – with strength of conviction, you end up with a proposition that’s tough to refuse.

Look at the words leading up to the line, “Help me help you:”

I am out here for you.

You don’t know what it’s like to be me out here for you.

It is an up-and-gone, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about. OK?

Naturally, Cuba Gooding Jr. got on board.


  • Gini Dietrich

    First of all, Jerry Maguire was one of the best movies ever made! Show me the money!

    Secondly, this is a lesson we all have to learn on the agency side. We have one client we’re going through this very thing with right now. The conversation I just had last night with their CEO was, “It’s our job to make yours easier. How can we do that?” And suddenly he began telling me all the things he’d like to see us do instead of having us revise the strategy for the 20,000th time.

  • Lou Hoffman

    Does the CEO have a brother (ideally heading up a tech company)?

    Your comment brings up another point–

    The actions/behavior from the client have a huge impact on how the agency account folks fell about their jobs. We did an internal study a couple years ago and client interactions were the number-two factor in job satisfaction behind their direct manager.

    P.S. I’m with you on Jerry Macguire. The “help me help you” should be required watching for aspiring thespians.

  • Evelyn

    Believe it or not, I wrote that line, “Please help me help you” to one of our clients years ago in a rather long email when I was really frustrated with where things were going, or rather, not going with the account. He wrote back explaining his situation and the internal struggles that he was facing. That was when I knew I had to back down. That was also the turning point of the client-agency relationship, I believe. He ended up being one of our best clients and hardly questioned our recommendations and the team did great work in return. It was a great lesson learned — putting myself into our clients shoes i.e. empathy — an aspect that I forgot being on the agency side.

    • hoffman

      Fair point Evelyn. There can be reasons that aren’t necessarily visible to the Agency on why things play out the way they do.


      P.S. But I do think Tom Cruise was empathetic to the needs of Cuba Gooding Jr.


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