"It's Not You, It's Me. Red Flags in Campaigns

“It’s not you, it’s me.” Red Flags in Campaigns

by Ryan Estes, November 29, 2011
3 Signs Your Client Isn’t Ready For a Campaign.

A campaign is a tremendous amount of work and dedication; a campaign manager expects to empty the tool box and drive the campaign from here to Jupiter. I’ve come across several organizations that thought they were ready for a campaign, and then decide to defer the project after weeks of deliberation. I used to be one who would fight for the campaign until I realized, “Why am I spinning my wheels?” There are signs and red flags you can recognize before getting too far into planning—here are three red flags that make me put the car in reverse:
  1. They’re weary about re-branding. Re-branding is reinvention; it isn’t needed for all organizations, but if you’re a creative and you think re-branding is needed, chances are you’re correct. If the organization isn’t willing to explore this idea or at least even listen to your thoughts, consider it a red flag. Working with an outdated brand will make projects challenging for you if it isn’t something you can stand by proudly.
  1. They’re weary about press. Press is significant. If your client has journalists and media chasing them, they should take every opportunity to promote their product and their brand. Typical excuses include: “It’s not the right time;” “We’re not ready to address that subject;” and “I want to save the opportunity for a more important time.” Public relations and communications professionals exist for this very reason, to coach organizations on how to handle such questions. Teach your client to leverage press and all excuses will be out the door; if they’re still resistant, consider it a red flag. “I’m not ready” [to face press] means “I’m not ready to be public.”
  1. They’re weary about exploring new media. Media is changing every day, and consumers expect businesses to stay on top of trends. If a client falls behind with new media initiatives, it might be difficult for you to structure their campaign. If, after an extensive introduction, your client is still uninterested, consider it a red flag. New media will continue to evolve and they could miss significant opportunities.

If you see any of these signs when starting out with a client, recognize that they’re weary about change. The purpose of a campaign is to drive attention to a cause and meet objectives. If a client isn’t all in, why are you? I’ve had to be direct with organizations that showed these signs—not because I stopped supporting the cause, but because they weren’t ready. Unfortunately, you can’t force a client to be ready; you can introduce new ideas and present different strategies, but ultimately it’s up to them to come to the table with an open mind. The project or the cause could be wonderful and fabulous, but at the end of the day you have to consider what you have to work with, and you have to measure how much you can actually turn around. Make your work invaluable. There are plenty of other campaigns who would be happy to use your expertise.

Principal at Talklaunch LTD
I am a reader of bedtime stories, Brazilian jiu jitsu player, sportsman, volunteer, and friend. Hosting the Denver Business Podcast has revealed that I'm not alone in the pursuit of profit and purpose. Current obsessions include nootropics, fingerstyle blues, and simulation hypothesis. I book speaking engagements on occasion, but I prefer listening engagements. If you are interested in being featured as a guest on our show please email
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