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The Art of Account Management: Steve Briggs on Why Emotions Are Vital



Brownstein’s director of account management on internships, communication and building healthy relationships

The Art of Account Management: Steve Briggs on Why Emotions Are Vital

Steve Briggs is a director of account management at Brownstein. Briggs brings more than 25 years of experience in marketing and advertising to this role, where he will partner with Brownstein’s national and regional clients in building unstoppable brands. Briggs’s agency experience has included roles as EVP, group account director at Hill Holiday, as well as marketing director at Allen & Gerritsen. Throughout his tenured career, he has partnered with brands such as BMW, TJX and Ocean Spray and launched national campaigns such as Dunkin’s 'America Runs On Dunkin’. As the agency heads into 2023, he is joining at a pivotal time to further elevate the account management team in client satisfaction and portfolio growth. 

LBB> How did you first get involved in account management and what appealed to you about it?

Steve> Like a lot of people in advertising, my interest in account management started with an informational interview while I was in college. A friend of the family worked in an agency as an account director. He shared what his job was like – working with clients to understand their needs and working with a team of people in the agency who focused on different areas of expertise to deliver on those needs. The management of these two groups to create marketing strategies and tactics really appealed to me. My first job in an agency was an internship in a new business. Three months after I started that internship, I was hired as an AAE on the Ocean Spray account.

LBB> What is it about your personality, skills and experience that has made account management such a great fit?

Steve> A love of people, reasonable intelligence, ceaseless curiosity, tremendous passion for great insight and big creative ideas. And a strong sense of humour! I value relationships tremendously. I love being able to understand an opportunity, or a problem, and working collaboratively with everyone on both sides of the client/agency equation to create corresponding solutions that impact the marketplace. Relationships are what make the whole experience both enjoyable and rewarding.

LBB> What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in account management?

Steve> Ask a lot of questions. You’re not expected to know everything by any stretch. Asking questions demonstrates interest and builds your knowledge. On the other side of the equation, when you’re asked a question, know that it’s OK not to know the answer, but make sure you tell the person asking the question when you will know the answer. This helps them build confidence in you. Be confident in yourself, but be humble – there is an essential balance there. Have an opinion. But, make sure it’s well-informed. This will help you build credibility as you advance in your career.

LBB> Thinking back to some of your most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client-agency relationships?

Steve> Lack of consistent clear and candid communication creates challenging relationships. This is core to account management. 

LBB> And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?

Steve> Beyond the communication point above, respect, honesty, and trust are essential components of a healthy relationship. 

LBB> What’s your view on disagreement and emotion - is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why - and what does productive disagreement look like?

Steve> There’s absolutely a place for disagreement and emotion. Differences of opinion are important – constructive discussion on our perspectives is essential. But “aggressive” disagreement is most likely going to be unproductive. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. I had a particularly intense disagreement with a client once. At the end of our conversation, the client said, “you know, this disagreement is going to make our relationship and partnership stronger. It will make us better. It’s good that this happened.” Now that is a productive disagreement! Emotion is vital! I’m an emotional guy. But channelling your emotion positively is how emotion can be productive. 

LBB> Historically, account management has been characterised as the mediator in an adversarial client and creative relationship - what do you make of that characterisation, is there any nugget of truth in that or is it wildly inaccurate? 

Steve> Yes! It’s accurate – way more than a nugget. If there’s an adversarial relationship between the client and any person or department in the agency, then it’s account management’s job to reconcile that – get to the root – and fix it. Now!

LBB> These days, agencies do so much beyond traditional campaigns and as account management you’re pulling together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social and more - and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too? What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

Steve> Apart from what I said above about communication, it’s so important to bring people together. So everyone understands how interlocked and mutually dependent all the disparate elements are.

LBB> What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?

Steve> There have been several projects that I’ve worked on that I’m very proud to be a part of. And the projects vary wildly, in size, scope, depth, breadth, internal, external, strategic, process-oriented. The common element is teamwork. Beyond the very collaboration that teamwork implies, in all of those prideful projects, the team itself actively decided together that the endeavour was worthy of pursuit and each team member understood their role in making the outcome successful. 

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Brownstein, Tue, 13 Dec 2022 12:19:00 GMT