“In a world of commoditization and routinization, Stephanie brings a creative and personable approach to media that sets her apart from the field.”
A former client wrote that in my LinkedIn recommendations section a decade ago and I think of it often. It continues to be one of the greatest compliments I have received. In 2010 we had not even really begun to see the ways that technology would change media planning and buying. I spent a lot of time and took pride in building relationships with my media sales reps. We would “do lunch” regularly and happy hours were the norm. Relationship building was part of the media buying process.
While traditional methods of buying and selling are certainly still widely used, we mainly communicate electronically and through virtual meetings (even before COVID-19 made them necessary) and programmatic buying evolved from an experimental technology to a must-have for media buyers. Using programmatic methods, I can send an email in the morning and my client’s digital billboards can be live in the afternoon without talking to anyone. With programmatic, we can target our audiences much more intelligently, making buys more efficient. It saves time by streamlining the ad buying process and allows us keep up with the shifting tides of media consumption. These are all big wins for our clients. But what does it mean for agencies and media buyers when machines are taking over the job?
Relationship building is still key. It starts with treating sales reps like partners, instead of simply vendors. Being responsive and respectful is vital. I have a rule that I will meet with pretty much anyone who wants to have a meeting. It may not be immediately, but I will give them time. You may not need what they are offering now, but you never know when you will. Pick up the phone when you need to deliver news, whether it is good or bad. Even when the answer is no, partners appreciate transparency and honesty.
Having good relationships often result in better rates and preferred placements. But there is so much more to consider. Partners have discretion when making perks available such as first offers for added value and preferential treatment for upgrades. You may find they are willing to give you enhanced digital reporting or added flexibility on a deadline. Need something fast? The people you have built relationships with will be the first ones willing to do you a favor. They are also the ones who will recommend you when a new piece of business comes along.
Beyond just good placements and rates, there are other reasons to pick up the phone and have a conversation. I find I get the best ideas when I am brainstorming with others. That is almost impossible to do in email. These things take more time but there is a lot at stake—and you and your clients benefit.
Research, defining goals, determining effective media mixes, efficient execution and smart reporting are all essential practices for a good media plan and buy. But relationship building is often the only thing that can set your team apart from the routine.
Stephanie Brown has over 25 years’ experience as a master planner and negotiator. As Stratacomm’s media director, she leads the team on all paid media needs.