Positive Relations

An excellent relationship between a client and a creative team is critical to an agency’s success.

Relationship Manager, Sophie van den Bogaerde, shares how being good at reading people – and personal ethics and empathy – are essential to effective communication. Being a bit of a control freak helps as well.

Think different

It would be fair to say I have a creative background. As a child, I studied ballet and music (mainly flute and piano). As an adult, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from UNSW and trained as an actor. I’ve had parts in short films and ads.

The other formative element in my background is that my parents were both senior in the hospitality industry. I’ve worked in hospo since I was 14, so I know what good service is. I’m also part owner of Vudu Food Bar in Bowral, with my mum. I occasionally still work there on weekends.

All these factors have given me a dedicated work ethic and an understanding of the importance of good relationships with clients, that has served me well in my current role. I love it when everyone’s happy.

I also think my creative background, and the way my brain works in general, mean I approach things in a way other people might not. But it doesn’t matter how you approach your work, as long as you do it well. My favourite thing is getting stuff done!

The joy of creative

I take a lot of joy in experiencing the creative process happen around me. Everyone is a specialist in their field and excellent at what they do. I’m not a videographer, designer or web expert, so to see what different people come up with in response to a creative challenge is extraordinary.

In my role, I’m able to touch on every department, which is such a privilege. For example, when I’m working with the visual media team, it’s amazing to see the amount of work and pre-production that goes into a shoot. It’s also so satisfying and exciting to see a brand identity come to life on a designer’s screen, and then share that work with a client.

To see clients thrilled with work that’s going to move their business forward is the best feeling. Delivering that is a core element of what I do.

Seizing opportunities

I do see my role as creative. We need to be creative about where we find opportunities, and we need to be creative in our solutions.

Sometimes a client will come to us with a set idea of what they’d like to do. When we find out what they’d like to achieve, it’s often the case we propose an approach that’s more efficient and cost-effective for their needs. Understanding our capabilities and being able to create the best path forward is also extremely rewarding. It’s great to be able to suggest: “Perhaps you need a brand refresh and not 10 videos right now!”

You can’t do that well unless you have a great relationship with a client. Trust is just such a huge thing. But, to be genuinely effective, you also need to build trust with the internal team. They need to know the relationship manager is representing the client’s requirements accurately.

Reading the room

You have to be a certain type of person to be a good relationship manager. You’re talking to lots of different people every day. Although I’m actually an introvert and happy spending time by myself, I also love understanding what sort of person the client is and what motivates them. I think my hospitality experience has been really helpful with that.

It’s also important that I don’t get over-excited and start projecting my own creative ideas. In some ways, it’s about reining in that pure creativity and making sure the priority is a positive outcome for the client. I find that level of connection interesting and cool. It’s the special space where good things happen, and it’s my job to somehow create that space.

What quality looks like

I’ve learned a lot in my role. Perhaps the biggest thing is what quality looks like. Our Creative Director, Bas Storch, is relentless in his pursuit of excellence. Something might fulfil the brief, but we don’t send it out the door until it’s exceptional.

I think this is really important, because it says so much about our brand. In the long run, it means clients stay or come back again and again for project work, and recommend us to others in their industry or category. Being known for great work definitely makes a relationship manager’s job easier.

I like a lot of responsibility and lots of control. I think have a lot of big sister energy, as I’ve got three younger brothers. If I moved to a more traditionally creative role, like writing, I think I’d struggle to give up the level of input into projects that I currently have. I’d be constantly listening to what was happening around me and trying to involve myself in things. So, I’m very happy doing what I’m doing.

The other important thing is to be ethical. If we’ve made a promise, we’ll stick to it. Being a relationship manager is complicated, difficult, demanding, and the only constant is change. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If Sophie wasn’t a Relationship Manager at The Being Group, she’d still enjoy blurting out strange things — then laughing hysterically.

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