AVC Edelman: “We train our clients how to respect the agencies”
Listen to Ms. Tran Nga Vy, senior client executive of AVC Edelman, to understand the strategic ladder helping this local PR firm to climb to the top and stay at the high trust level with several multinational corporations.
In 2010, Tran Nga Vy started her academic education about communication within the one-year diploma degree of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in major Marketing, PR and Advertising. However, her career experience in communication field has started since 2008 with three and a half years changing jobs frequently before stopping at AVC Edelman ever since June 2011. Within her varied experience working in the agency (VIVA Marketing) and the client (Coldwell Banker Vietnam) as well as the media (Crea-TV and Vietnam Supply Chain Insight Magazine), it is unsurprising for her deep knowledge about the relationship between all sides in communication industry, which assists her career as a client executive at AVC Edelman.
Figure 1: Proof of life, reproduced by Pham 2013
After researching some necessary information about Vy as well as AVC Edelman, I met Vy at a coffee shop in downtown district 1 for dinner. Unlike other senior mentors I have approached before, she looks really younger than her actual age within 5-year experience in communication sector. Honestly, I did not even surprise with the condensed time length of the interview – around 40 minutes – due to her intense schedule as a senior communicator, but the contents of her stories did surprise me. Although it is undeniable that Vy has a sweet tone of voice with fascinating story-telling style, the “drama stories” about her experience working with clients is simply the hook itself.
“Each client is unique”
AVC Edelman allocates team members based on different industries in order to maximize the working productivity by concentrating on specific clients with distinctive characteristics. “For instance, Unilever is really demanding within their high expectations. The FMCG team members are frequently required to work overtime to immediately fix the communication products according to the changing mind of this client before sending to the media. Working until 1 or 2AM is too common.”, she said. “Nokia’s representatives are nicer. But the key features of the technology industry itself also demand us to chase of the fast-paced and constantly launch of new products.”
With a calm and peaceful expression, Vy’s talking about all the stress and difficulties when dealing with different kinds of client was like the most common thing in this world. At AVC Edelman, Vy and her colleagues comprehend the prerequisite to acquire the deep understanding about clients as the key factor to maintain the high trust level. Galford and Drapeau (2003) state that it takes long time to build trust but just a moment to break it down. Also agreed on the fragileness of trust, Kramer and Tyler (1996) mention that the shortage of knowledge about each other is the initial factor to damage the mutual trust. Simply put, the understanding about our partners helps us anticipate their desires and behaviours so as to efficient the collaboration (Kramer & Tyler 1996). Hence, it could be said that AVC Edelman maintains the good relationship with a vast amount of clients because they understand and appreciate their clients’ need.
“The best way to deal with unexpected demands is to make clients respect us”
Figure 3: Respect others and they will respect you, reproduced from Sebastian n.d
Sound strange but true! “Trust comes from both sides.”, said Vy. Hence, if our clients do not respect us as much as we appreciate them, how could trust be built? AVC Edelman is considered as the pioneering agency in training clients to respect their agencies in return. Unlike the traditional paying system based on the quantity and quality of products, clients of AVC Edelman are requested to pay for our team’s effort according to the time length spent for certain campaigns. “By this method, clients will have an opportunity to think twice before asking us to change any work according to their subjective viewpoints.”
Many would argue that this strategy against the common norm is service industry that “clients are the God”, meaning all the clients’ requests are needed to be satisfied. Solomon (2008) also suggests that we, as the agency, could not either say “no” directly to clients or to promise the things beyond our abilities. Hence, the “loving relationship” between client and agency requires the negotiation and mutual respect on the partners’ values to achieve the win-win situation, which both sides gain the agreed benefits, as well as maintain mutual trust.
However, the theories might not always be true. “We used to say “no” to a big client (hidden name) after wasting 6 months working on their campaign without attaining any agreements on any works. Fortunately, this case rarely occurs to AVC Edelman.”
“The fall of advertising and the rise of PR”
Figure 4: The fall of advertising and the rise of PR, reproduced from Admin 2008
Our conversation touched some main points of this book, particularly in the case of AVC Edelman within Vietnam industry. Despite the never-ending controversy around this topic, Vy and I agree on two features of PR, leading to the advantages of PR firms compared to advertising agencies, including the low-cost and the utilization of social media. Initially, comparing the cost of TVC and print ads to the payments of media relations and press releases, we could see the clear distinction. Furthermore, the dramatic growth of social media has significantly changed the order of communication world (Ries & Ries 2002).
An illustration of this is Starbucks – the big brand with limited budget. There is a funny fact that even AVC Edelman’s PR executives could not expect the enormous explosion of Starbucks on Facebook since this campaign costs an extremely small budget. AVC Edelman simply invited the media, including the “hot bloggers” with the vast number of following users on social media, via private relationships to enjoy the coffee and write feedbacks without any costs. And suddenly Starbucks became a bomb on the Internet.
Vy also mentioned the role of PR agencies as the first responder for clients, especially in developed countries. Concisely, in Western nations, clients frequently consult with PR executives to set up the strategic communication plan before the PR agencies contacts other advertising agencies as well as the media according to that plan. “AVC Edelman has been applying that model to assist our clients. We believe that the strategic consultation will help AVC Edelman to climb from temporary partners to the more committed and trusted forms of relationship.”
It is still too soon to conclude that the end of advertising is coming. AVC Edelman, as a Vietnamese innovative PR agency, has been applying the global models with aims of enhancing the advantages of PR strategies to benefit the clients. Unilever is a big brand. Starbucks is also a big brand. Hence, they would never choose AVC Edelman without reasons. And AVC Edelman has been constantly improving those reasons for more trusted partners.
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Admin 2008, ‘Book nook: The fall of advertising and the rise of PR’, image, Talkincblog, 4 August, viewed 06 September 09, <http://talkincblog.com/2008/08/book-nook-“the-fall-of-advertising-the-rise-of-pr”/>.
Galford, R & Drapeau, AS 2003, ‘The enemies of trust’, Harvard Business Review, February 2003, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://hbr.org/2003/02/the-enemies-of-trust/ar/1>.
Kramer, RM & Tyler, T 1996, ‘Trust in Organization: Frontiers of Theory and Research’, SAGE Publications, California, chapter 7, pp. 114 – 118.
Pham, MS 2013, ‘Proof of life’, image, Cine Cafe, HCMC.
Ries, A & Ries, L 2002, ‘The fall of advertising and the rise of PR’, Harper Collins Publishers, Canada.
Sebastian n.d, ‘Respect others and they will respect you’, image, Values, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://www.values.com/your-billboards/29159-Respect-Others-And-They-Will-Respect-You>.
Solomon, R 2008, ‘The art of client service’, Kaplan, New York, chapter 41, pp. 105 – 106.
Wallace, R n.d, ‘Unique Content’, image, Strategy For SEO, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://www.strategy4seo.com/tag/unique-content/>.