In this industry, there’s a role that sees the entire journey of an idea — from the first jotted-down thought to the formation of a global identity. That’s what drew Catherine. 20+ years later, she teaches us why account management is more than its name suggests. For her, it’s not just mediating. It’s creativity. Emotion. Involvement and conversation.

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

A: I’d got my first job working as an editorial assistant on M&S magazine – which I really loved, but the thought of a role that would let me play a part of the whole process from brief to measurement lured me in and I secured a role as a junior account manager on the Allders account. I’ve not looked back and love working in this world.


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

A: I’m very tenacious and can find energy to move forward even when potentially massive setbacks pop up. I’ve had lots of exposure to clients facing all sorts of commercial challenges and find it easy to stay focused on exactly what we’re trying to solve.

Never getting lost in lingo that you don’t understand and can’t explain onwards in your own words.

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

A: There really is no dark art or magic to this so don’t let people make you think there is. Just make sure you fully understand and believe in what you’re communicating – otherwise you can’t expect anyone else to understand or believe in it either.


Q: 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?

A: Minimising how difficult it is to get a really good idea developed and over the line and the skills and tools needed for this. I believe if every proposal, response or idea is structured and designed in a way that lands the thought process simply in a way that can stand up to rigorous interrogation, it reduces the risk of conversations feeling subjective and personal – taking away a lot of potential difficulties.


Q: And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?

A: It’s been said many times but it really is key to have honesty and empathy; if you can’t imagine the realities of what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes – including the really harsh realities of commercial pressures all round – there’s something very wrong.


Q: 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?

A: My view is that emotion is key in all parts of the marketing process; obviously getting anyone to care enough to want to give your brand even a split-second bit of investment is no mean feat – so if you don’t truly give a shit about what you’re saying how can you expect your client and your potential customers to?

It stands to reason that emotional reactions are a key part of the whole development process – if something lights a fire inside you then you’re going to want to fight for it.  But the communication of emotion must, must, must be done respectfully – aggression of any sort and slanging matches have no place at all at work.


Q: 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? 

A: Personally I find the term mediator reductive as it can suggest the idea of solely being a conduit to resolve the opinion of two parties rather than an active expert contributor – but I do believe account management is there to make sure every single conversation moves forward effectively, so I guess there’s a truth there.


Q: 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?

A: Never getting lost in lingo that you don’t understand and can’t explain onwards in your own words.


Q: 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?

A: I really loved working with Sky on their brilliant Sky Up programme – which is doing so many great things to address some of the inequity many people still face accessing tools and skills in the creative, digital and tech worlds.

A project like this deserves to be told with real creativity to allow it to shine away from the sea of slightly congratulatory corporate tales we see too much of these days.

It was a real privilege to play a part in and I’m very proud that the relationship we’ve built with the wonderful client team meant they trusted us to tell their story in a charming and human way.