To Meet, or Not to Meet: That Is the Question

  |  January 28, 2009   |  Comments

An agency media director's guide to managing meeting requests and evaluating media properties. First in a two-part series.

Remember all those vendor meetings you've been pushing off until the New Year? Well, it's the New Year, and if you're a vendor, it means calling all your contacts to remind them they promised you a meeting in January. We should remember in December that January isn't a great time for this. For one thing, most of our campaigns start in January; there's trafficking, troubleshooting, screen-grabbing, reporting, and so on. January is also when the previous year's plan ends and a post is due -- the really big, cumbersome one that is supposed to inform future decisions and tell our clients what good stewards we were with their money. Easy task, right?

Before you start booking meetings or dodging phone calls, there's a way to manage your calendar and even make an informed decision about whether a meeting is necessary. After all, there are thousands of potential media properties you can meet with and there is only one of you. So below are some steps and tips on how to handle agency/rep meetings in the coming year. In my next column, I'll provide recommendations on various behavioral targeting networks that are worth meeting with.

Regardless of whether this is the 1st or 50th time you're spoken to a media property, you should have a media evaluation form on file, along with an electronic media kit. (Drop me a line if you'd like to see my media evaluation form.)

The media evaluation form should include extensive details on the media property, including demographics, traffic, case studies, contact information, unique opportunities, competitive set, and specific information on the categories you represent. If you have an automotive client, for example, you may want to find out what other automotive manufacturers the site has worked with and why they are the right fit for your brand. Don't forget to date the form and update it every six months or when a major change takes place.

Once this form is filled out, a planner should review it and decide on next steps: schedule a meeting because it seems like the right fit or additional information is needed; file the form to be considered for the next RFP (define) process; or file the form as not a fit based on current goals. There should be a section within the form for the reviewer (a planner) to write comments and provide a recommendation on next steps. The planner may also want to run her recommendation by a supervisor for agreement.

Now let's talk about meetings specifically. There are different reasons we have meetings, but the main ones are to build relationships, to ask specific questions and receive clarification on a proposal or offering, and to learn about a new service. We should be clear on the goal so the meeting can be structured to achieve it. If you want clarification on a proposal, send questions ahead of time so your partners are adequately prepared to respond (thereby not creating a need for an additional meeting). If the reason to meet is to build a relationship, have the meeting outside the office over coffee, a meal, or some other activity. Relationships are rarely built while haggling over a CPM (define) or impressions. Relationship meetings should also be done when a relationship is needed, as in the case of an upcoming program or a new important property within the category.

If you're a part of a team, different people on the team can manage various aspects of the program. For example, if you have a financial services client, one planner or supervisor can manage all or most of the correspondence with the finance sites, another team member can be responsible for the portal relationships, while another may handle search engines (if you don't have a search engine expert), lifestyle sites, or ad networks. You can create specialists within your team who will understand the their verticals' role better than the rest and, therefore, can size up a site better and quicker than the rest (hopefully saving the team time). The specialists will be responsible for sharing their reviews and recommendations with the rest of the team. But relationship meetings with relevant properties should happen regardless of who the team specialist is, since the entire team will be involved in a program and need to be familiar with who they'll be working with.

This process may not ward off incoming calls, many of which may have no relevance to your business. Remember to be courteous and a good steward of your client's business. Ultimately, the agency represents the client, and our job is to consider and evaluate potential programs and properties that may move our client's business. However, once a decision has been made, reps should also be courteous and mindful of our time, since there are thousands of them and just one of us -- and January only has 31 days.

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Anna Papadopoulos

Based in New York, Anna Papadopoulos has held several digital media positions and has worked across many sectors including automotive, financial, pharmaceutical, and CPG.

An advocate for creative media thinking and an early digital pioneer, Anna has been a part of several industry firsts, including the first fully integrated campaign and podcast for Volvo and has been a ClickZ contributor since 2005. She began her career as a media negotiator for TBS Media Management, where she bought for media clients such as CVS and RadioShack. Anna earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from St. John's University in New York.

Follow her on Twitter @annapapadopoulo and on LinkedIn.

Anna's ideas and columns represent only her own opinion and not her company's.

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