ellipsis flag icon-blogicon-check icon-comments icon-email icon-error icon-facebook icon-follow-comment icon-googleicon-hamburger icon-imedia-blog icon-imediaicon-instagramicon-left-arrow icon-linked-in icon-linked icon-linkedin icon-multi-page-view icon-person icon-print icon-right-arrow icon-save icon-searchicon-share-arrow icon-single-page-view icon-tag icon-twitter icon-unfollow icon-upload icon-valid icon-video-play icon-views icon-website icon-youtubelogo-imedia-white logo-imedia logo-mediaWhite review-star thumbs_down thumbs_up

The 8 worst things to say at an agency

The 8 worst things to say at an agency Drew Hubbard

Words are powerful things. Even subtle nuances in the words we choose can convey vastly different messages -- even unintended ones.

As an agency marketer, you're also a communicator. So if you're sloppy about the language you use, you're being sloppy about your job in general.

The 8 worst things to say at an agency

In a past article, I discussed the worst possible things you can say when pitching a new idea. In this article, we'll take a look at another batch of statements that agency marketers need to eliminate from their professional repertoires when speaking to their superiors, employees, and clients.

To your superiors

"I'm bored."
First off, no matter who you're talking to, this statement is an annoying one. No one likes a complainer. But when you say this to your boss, you're stepping in a whole new pile of the proverbial "it."

If you work in the agency game and actually find yourself with a shortage of projects, consider yourself one of the few. Pointing this out to people will likely infuriate those who can't even sneak away for a 20-minute lunch, much less conceive of being "bored." Even if your intent is a noble one -- to point out that you're available to help with other projects -- it's still a poor choice of wording.

Furthermore, complaining about being bored rather than taking your downtime to brainstorm new opportunities shows a lack of ambition and creativity. Even worse, it shows that you consider yourself a work horse, someone who simply cranks through projects that they are handed, rather than an innovator, someone who seeks out projects that inspire them and better the agency. If you act like a work horse, you will be treated as such.

So before you open your pie hole to complain about being bored, stop for a moment and decide how you can fill your down time with work that actually inspires you or betters your position at the company. But in the very least, don't rub it in everyone else's face that you have lots of extra time to look at cake pops on Instagram.

"Don't worry. I'm not looking for other jobs."
You might say this to console your boss or to demonstrate how happy you are. These are all noble goals, especially if you do love your job. But phrasing it this ways hints at a level of comfort -- and thus, complacency -- that can be misconstrued. In this industry, it's often assumed that the most promising marketers always have their eye out for new opportunities, even if they aren't actively pursuing them.

Regardless of your current job hunt status (or lack thereof), do you really want to be taken for granted? It you say things like this, you eventually will be. Wouldn't you rather your superiors be focused on ways to keep you happy?

"I'd rather..."
We'd all "rather." We'd rather be developing creative strategies than inputting campaign data into a client PPT deck. We'd rather be writing clever copy for a humorous social media campaign than ensuring the technical copy in a medical supply company's email to surgeons complies with current regulations. But we all have to pay our dues and treat all client work with the respect it deserves.

So don't harp on the "I'd rathers." Do your job and do it well. And the next time that creative brainstorm or humorous social campaign opportunity arises, you'll be in a position to point out why you should be sitting at that table.

To your employees

"That's above your pay grade."
That statement says one of two things (or both): You're afraid your employee is going to take your job or you have no intention of letting that person advance at your agency (or don't think they're worthy of advancement). If either of those things is true, you have deeper issues to address.

If you're constantly encouraging your employees to not concern themselves with the bigger happenings at the agency, ask yourself why. You probably need to either change your attitude -- or, in some cases, change some of your employees.

"You need to go through me first."
This is similar to the previous statement. If you hear this one coming out of your mouth (especially with regularity), it reflects a deeper problem. Are you trying to take credit for your employees' ideas by filtering them through you? Or do you not trust your employee to communicate directly with the person they need to (whether that is the client or an agency higher-up)?

In other words, this statement can be a reflection of the fact that you're either a bad boss or have a bad employee. Which is it? And are you willing to do something about it?

"I wish things were different."
I'm sure you do wish things were different. In the agency world, we all do. But when you phrase it this way to employees, you breed hopelessness and a sense of powerlessness.

You can't magically snap your fingers and make a client be more willing to pick up the phone or send you assets on time. You can't always convince your company that your employees need new laptops or better software or access to the latest online services. But don't just throw up your hands and "wish you could." Try to focus on solutions or paths to an eventual solution. Let your employees know that you're going to take every opportunity to make those wishes a reality.

To your clients

"We can measure everything."
This statement has come out of most digital marketers' mouths at some point in time. It's a point of pride for our industry. We love our Google Analytics and spreadsheets and robust reporting tools. And it's true: We can measure pretty much everything. But that doesn't mean most of us are in a place to make sense of all of these numbers. And that's what this statement implies.

For example, intent is still pretty hard to get a firm grasp on. And tying social media activity to sales is an area where we have a long ways to go. There still is no killer unified social media reporting app. Some get close. And they're getting better. But we as digital marketers are not omniscient. We often can't tie the whole picture together for clients (not yet, anyway), so we should set expectations as appropriate. The fact of the matter is, when a client campaign ends, there will be dots you can't necessarily connect. The best you can do is to identify the most important dots up front and focus your measurement efforts accordingly.

"I'm sorry" (as a default response)
Saying "I'm sorry" to clients can be a wholly correct response. If you screw up (or the client's grandmother dies), say, "I'm sorry." But do not make it your default response any time something goes wrong.

Things go wrong. Campaigns come up short compared to expectations. And frankly, agencies can't control every last outcome. Marketplaces shift. Seasonal variances occur. Company nuances and other outside factors influence results. It's not always your fault, and you're not always in a position to foresee a glitch. So don't be the whipping boy by default.

Defaulting to "I'm sorry" will throw off the balance of your relationship with your client. Moreover, if you accept blame without truly examining the source of a problem, it can prevent needed improvements on the client side. So reserve this phrase for what will hopefully be the rare occasion that you truly do drop the ball.

Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.

On Twitter? Follow Drew at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"The young beautiful woman in horror" image via Shutterstock.

Drew is mainly a dad, but he's also a social media and content marketing guy. Originally from Kansas City and a graduate of The University of Missouri, Drew will gladly discuss the vast, natural beauty of the Show Me State. Drew and his wife,...

View full biography


to leave comments.

Commenter: Carl Hartman

2013, April 18

How about "It doesn't matter."? Primarily because the failing advertising agency model will not matter. Ad agencies will not matter in the near future, its a failed model. Let's hope they die a quick death so the world can move on. If all the items you list above are part of the ad agency culture than the industry deserves to die. What horrible business. Its not even customer focused. The industry is only interested in fees for service, not serving the customer. What a shame.