I'm Eilidh, and I'm a business lead
Describe your job
I’ve always found this question difficult to answer succinctly. Not because I don’t know what I do (well, sometimes). But because working in Account Management means that you’re many things, to many people.
There are countless names and phrases used to describe what Account Management is and what we do. Suits. Salespeople. Partners. Managers, Directors and Leaders.
Truth is, it’s a combination of any of those things on any given day. My best description of what I do is acting as a partner. A partner to my clients - working with them, as an extension of their team, to develop, build on and respond to briefs to meet their objectives. And as a partner to the people I work alongside within the creative agency where I work – the project managers, creative teams, strategists and producers – to develop creative responses to those briefs, challenging thinking and exceeding expectations.
As a Business Lead, I am in a client-facing role, and have a responsibility across a number of clients to ensure that we are delivering work which helps their business succeed. From understanding and setting strategic direction, protecting the quality of the work we produce, owning the commercials (finances), and managing a team of people to develop and deliver campaigns we can all be proud of, in whatever form they take.
This is what makes describing my job quite difficult. No day is the same.
There are days spent in research groups, digesting and unpicking customer insights that could help inform the direct of a brief. Or challenging the client on their brief and objectives, if there might be a different way of approaching or responding to a particular challenge. Sometimes it’s full of spreadsheets and powerpoint, developing fees and business cases that make sure that the client is paying, and agency receiving, the right costs for the work that's being done.
Then there’s being on shoots or productions, supporting the teams in bringing to life the work we’ve developed. Or working with creative teams to help dissect and translate feedback from multiple stakeholders.
It's a bit like being a jack of all trades, where the expertise I bring to the table is in the clients I work with – their ambition, their challenges, their likes and dislikes, their competitor and market landscape (now, and looking ahead to the future).
What are the most important skills you need to do your job?
When I first started, being an Account Manager was described to me as being a ‘Happy Warrior’.
(I actually think this came from Calli, another amazing woman you can find on Represent Creative.) But it stuck with me...
Starting with the warrior. You need to have the commitment and passion to fight for the right work, both on behalf of the client and the agency. Standing up for a creative idea that will be the best reflection of what the agency can deliver, and giving confidence to our clients that it will meet (and hopefully exceed) their ambitions.
And then the happy. Which I’d best describe as optimism and momentum. The ability to bring a team of people together, working towards a shared goal, and keep energy and spirits high, even when it’s a bit challenging.
Ultimately, it’s the skill of being a ‘people person’. A team player. Not necessarily the loudest or most extrovert. Being able to read a room, gain trust, instil confidence in others.
Having a keen interest in what makes people tick, having empathy and managing multiple opinions. There’s loads of more specific skills and nuances you’ll gain on the job in everything from finance to having influence to production. But having real passion, commitment and interest in what you do are the tough ones to learn.
I left school and...
It’s worth saying that my journey from school to now is a combined product of doing what I felt passionate about at the time, chance encounters with some amazing people, and following my gut. When I left school, I had no idea what the next 5 or 10 years would look like. No. Idea.
I left school and went to Sheffield University, studying English Literature and History. I did both because I was interested in both, and didn’t want to choose between. This was actually the start of a short love affair with Sheffield – I didn’t graduate being any the wiser on what I wanted to do, but I loved Sheffield and so got a job at a national broadband provider, working in the call centre.
After about 6 months, my friends had started to make some decisions about their careers, starting graduate schemes and teacher training. I knew that I wanted a job more creative than the call centre role offered, however had some first hand experience speaking direct with customers that I thought might stand me in good stead, and so took a stab in the dark and signed up for a secondment programme, which meant I worked in their marketing department as an assistant for one day a week.
Turns out, I really loved marketing. I had the amazing opportunity to work as part of a small team, and given a lot of autonomy – experiencing everything from attending TV shoots, developing brand guidelines, and ultimately defining the strategy, comms and messaging for existing customer comms.
After about 4 years, my role in client side marketing had got to a stage where I realised I wasn’t quite as inspired by it as I used to be. It was very commercial and trading driven, and whilst there were elements I loved in terms of developing strategy, understanding customer insights and working with a team of supportive, close colleagues – I was missing having a diversity to what I did everyday, and more of the creative elements I’d first experienced. I also can’t underplay the fact that I was feeling itchy footed, and wanted to join my friends in London.
Luckily for me, through this experience, I’d had some exposure with the advertising agency who worked with the brand. I was interested in what it would be like working for an agency rather than in-house for one brand, and with the help of an extremely supportive female marketing director who was willing to set up some conversations with the account management team at the agency - I had found my way in.
Fast forward 3 months, and I’d taken a job at the agency to work as an account manager, applying my customer relationship management skills from client side to a big CRM account for a bank.
Now, almost 7 years later, I’m still there, having worked across CRM, brand and digital accounts in utilities, banking, car finance, fast food, charity and government.
Every day is still as exciting and inspiring as the last. (Well, maybe not every day. But you get the jist).
I’m most proud of...
The NCS brand identity and launch campaign
I’m most proud of this for a few reasons.
It was my first time running a pitch, and we won!
With the audience being so different to ‘us’ (a couple of generations age difference, for one). No-one made any assumptions, or thought they knew best. We brought a team of young people in to help us shape the work, from insights to execution, handing over control and making some bold decisions that put us all out of our comfort zone.
It was a massive team effort – I’ve never been so inspired and motivated by a group of people working to do something amazing.
Before I started my career, I wish I knew…
There’s a lot of power that comes with being able to say no.
Important context: I want to be liked. I like being liked. It’s quite fundamental to my personality. And for a long time, I associated being liked with always saying 'yes'. I also viewed this as me being good at my job – saying yes, and being able to deliver on it, was proof of my ability and passion. Even if it meant cancelled plans, being out of my depth, or doing something it was someone else’s job to do. Actually, there’s still a lot of times when I still do this.
Even though I still find myself doing it at times, I’ve learnt that it's not always the right or best thing to do. From a personal perspective, it’s a sure fire route to burning out – working silly hours and taking on more than you can handle. From a career perspective, being able to say no (when necessary) means being able to focus on what’s important to your progression.
It might sound selfish, but you being the best at what you’re paid to do is for everyone’s benefit. The things you say no to are often likely to be important 'yesses' for someone else on your team, to put their skills to best use.
And, from a responsibility in your role perspective – saying no is as important as saying yes. Saying no to ideas that aren’t right for the client’s business. Saying no to feedback that’s going to weaken the impact of the creative. Saying no unrealistic asks, timings and budgets, on both sides.
Saying no sometimes has meant that I’ve had to had difficult conversations and tough moments – but ultimately, it's been the most important to building the respect I have for myself and in my role. And as it turns out, I can say no and still be liked.
A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...
Not trusting my gut, and speaking up when I knew something wasn’t right.
It doesn’t have to be right there and then in a room full of people, but if you’ve had time to sleep on it, order your thoughts and you still think something needs to be addressed – flag it.
Bounce it off an impartial colleague or casually mention it to a team member. But there’s nothing more frustrating than that same point being raised in a later meeting by another person or a client, and knowing that you had the same thought and could have been on the front foot with it.
So, what’s next?
I don’t know the specifics of where or what, exactly. But I want to continue to work with some of the most creative, interesting, weird people I’ve met – and making some amazing work as a result.
Having a part to play in creating campaigns that spark conversations, change the status quo and make a difference in culture as much as it does our clients’ business.
Keep on learning, trying new things, finding sources of inspiration.
And still very much loving doing whatever I’m doing.