Friday, November 13, 2015
Kelsey Wheeler, Writer / Producer

There’s only so much you can learn about your client inside the office. To make Real Connections between brands and their audiences, it helps to hear them speak to each other.

That’s why I’m sitting here, in a firehouse break room in Papillion, Nebraska, sorting my notes and preparing my pen. One of my clients, the Propane Education & Research Council, is hosting a safety-training seminar, and I’m here to take it all in.

Swanson Russell has always supported my attendance of events like this, and every one is an adventure. I’ve assembled (hey, well enough) pipe for residential irrigation systems. I’ve been in the audience for an OEM’s sales presentation. The list goes on. I never fit in, but I like taking these field trips for a few reasons.

I get to be a fly on the wall.

There’s something about hearing your client’s own description of what they do that’s more valuable than reading it in a creative brief. This seminar is a writer’s dream: My client is speaking to his audience directly, and they’re having a conversation. Seeing how they interact helps me write from a more genuine perspective down the road — which brings me to my next point.

I get to learn some new lingo.

It might be easy to tune out when everyone throws around industry-speak: partners’ brand names, legislative nicknames, a hearty serving of acronym alphabet soup. This is where the notebook comes in handy. I jot down everything foreign and research it later. It goes a long way toward understanding the bigger picture of my client’s priorities.

I get ideas for future projects.

An off-hand question from an audience member today might spark an idea six months from now when I’m brainstorming ideas for a client’s tradeshow booth. My ears are especially sensitive to hearing any hints that my client, or their audience, has a need that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. I’ll probably bring it up at our next strategic planning meeting. Boom. That’s how you earn brownie points, kids.

I get to continue building client relationships

For the Real Connection system to work, everyone — especially the copywriter — has to be in tune with the client. That means you have to ask questions. Demonstrate your interest. Help them understand your style. These efforts are ongoing for an agency, but it’s something that can’t always be accomplished in a conference call.