My Agency Counterpart is Gone… Now What?

May 6, 2015
How to handle the surprise departure of your agency counterpart.

The unfortunate reality of the business world is that people don’t keep their jobs forever. The days of people joining a company, putting in 30+ years, and retiring without ever having to update their resume are long gone.

employee termination

This reality is only too harsh in the digital space.

You can leave your office on a Friday afternoon having just spoken with your account manager and feeling great about the status of your various projects with your agency of record, only to come in Monday morning to a tersely worded email indicating that said account manager is no longer with the firm and you will be contacted soon to review the status of your projects.

Talk about a punch in the stomach.

I know some of you out there are nodding your heads and re-living this very experience.

What Do I Do Now?

Change Your Mindset, But Don’t Panic

The first thing to understand is that while it may feel like it – your world is not ending. The anxiety you feel is the realization that your job just got a lot harder.

Your agency took a risk by letting your account manager go. In response to that decision, you need to flip immediately into evaluation mode. How your agency manages the communication of this decision and the transition of your projects is a huge indicator of the quality of partner they are. You need to be acutely aware of everything that happens immediately after you learn of your agency’s decision.

The scenario described above would not be a good start. A formal and soulless email followed by nothing is not how a good partner handles this situation. A well-led agency thinks through every possible scenario and has plans in place ready to go following this decision being made public.

An initial email is fine to start the conversation, but that email should come from your former account manager’s boss or a senior leader of the firm (preferably the owner/founder) or at least someone at the agency that you have a relationship with.

If you don’t recognize the person the initial email came from, then your agency didn’t take the time to think about you and how the news would affect you.

You should already have a voicemail on both your desk phone and your mobile phone referring to the email and providing an opportunity to discuss the decision either in person or over the phone at your convenience. If you don’t have that voicemail waiting for you, then you should get a phone call within 30 minutes of your normal starting time.

Again, if your agency doesn’t take these steps, you need to be wondering: How important are we?

Once you sit down with your agency’s representatives to discuss the situation, they should have a well-thought out transition plan in place. A plan that they are open to you modifying in order for you to be comfortable.

You don’t need to know why the decision was made, and your agency is not obligated to tell you, but your agency should not pretend like this is business as usual. They should take ownership of their decision and show commitment to a path moving forward.

The rest is up to you.

If your agency handles the transition the right way, then it is worth giving them a chance to continue to earn your business. If the transition is handled with a lack of empathy and personal touch, then it may be time to look for another agency.

Lastly, reach out to your newly available former account manager – maybe they will make a good addition to your team. If they are as good as you think they are, they won’t be on the market for long.

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