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Advice on giving feedback on a client to their manager? We have a client who is definitely failing up at a mid-level role and her manager knows and asked us for feedback. How to be diplomatic?

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Tell the manager you’re happy to discuss it in person and don’t put anything in writing. Then frame everything in how the agency could help support the client in areas where they need it to succeed in their role. For all you know, the manager is going to use the agency’s feedback as the fulcrum for the conversation and veil their own critique as the agency’s. And when your client learns the agency is speaking critically of them to their manager, you can count one less person in the client org who’s looking to help the agency succeed. And may begin actively undermining you. I’m speaking from having worked in a client marketing organization as well as at agencies.

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That’s a tough spot. Try to go in solutions- oriented and maybe even inquisitive. Instead of talking about how she’s butchering the brand strategy etc, maybe you could talk about how she might benefit from an immersive session on the strategy/look/feel because it seems from doing XYZ that she doesn’t fully understand the brand package. Imagine that the conversation you have or whatever you write will be shared directly with your client.

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This is all really great advice. Of course I would never say, wow, she sucks but I will say she could benefit from immersing herself in effective digital/social/brand strategy and overall social best practices.

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You’re the best ED! ❤️

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You typically lead off with a series of positives, which can be very minor but shows genuine intent. Then the “development” points are made carefully and grounded in ways that they can improve with suggestions and offers to support them if possible

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She really sucks TBH, she is butchering the brand strategy, look, feel and just everything. Ugh, they are such an iconic brand too.

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Do you not worry though, that if you mask the feedback with ‘how the agency can support the client better...’ etc, that they won’t get the message? Surely you can go in slightly stronger and say you’re not getting what you need from her at the moment, and it’s not helping the brand, or it’s results? If they were giving feedback on the agency, they wouldn’t massage it at all. We should at least speak plainly - it’s the basis of any two way relationship.

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True, if they have a trusting relationship with the manager they’ll be able to speak more openly. Fundamentally, they’re criticizing a client. That it was invited ultimately won’t matter. What will is the context in which it’s presented: plainly yet supportively, so that client (and agency) has the opportunity to shine and grow; or plainly yet strongly, in which case the client doesn’t shine or grow. And neither does their respect and trust for the agency because they’re left thinking the agency sold them out to their boss.

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Make it about the business. It’ll ensure your feedback comes across as business-minded versus personal/whiny.

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