Honesty is always the best policy

March 15, 2014

Talking about "honesty" and "advertising industry" in the same breath is so at odds that it's almost amusing. So, let's try and delineate between what we say and do in our campaigns versus what we say and do with our clients and colleagues. 

Talking about "honesty" and "advertising industry" in the same breath is so at odds that it's almost amusing. – Sarah Ritchie


If I could give you one, all-encompassing reason why honesty is truly the best policy as an Account Manager it would be this: Account Managers exist to help people, and you can't truly help someone if you are not being honest with them.

Ask yourself who is benefitting from your lie/half-lie/white-lie/blurred line? Inevitably, the answer will be "you are", and that's hardly in your client's (or your colleague's) best interest.

As an Account Manager, there will be many, many times when you will face the temptation to lie. here are some examples:

  • Your client's job didn't get delivered on time because you forgot to brief the printing company correctly; but you tell your client that the courier company lost the package.
  • You haven't briefed a client's job into the studio yet because you have been too busy focusing on other work; so instead you shift the blame onto the studio, saying they have been too busy to make a start on the project.
  • You didn't make budget this month, but you lie to Management that one of your clients decided not to proceed with work they had promised to give you.
  • You tell your development team that a job is wanted by a certain date (even though it is wanted later in the month) just so you will get your work done more quickly.
  • You exaggerate or omit statistics in your campaign report to make your campaign results seem better than they actually were.
  • You went over your campaign budget, so you under-report a cost to hide the expenditure.

Lies can seem extremely easy to tell (especially if you are in the habit of fudging the truth), but the ramifications of dishonesty should be enough to discourage you from telling even the most seemingly-harmless lie.

  • Lies create a burden of conscience.
  • Lies will complicate your life. It's relatively easy to remember the truth. It's a lot more difficult to remember a lie (or series of lies).
  • Intelligent people will eventually find you out, or at least suspect you of lying to them.
  • Lying is blame-shifting. You should stand up and take responsibility for your actions.
  • Lies will help you to avoid reality temporarily, but reality will most certainly come back to bite you.
  • If you are found out you may permanently damage a client relationship, or lose their business.
  • A culture of lying, within a company, can be pervasive and destructive - especially if lying is seen as an acceptable way of communicating with clients.
  • If your colleagues seem comfortable lying to clients, it's safe to assume they will also feel comfortable lying to you too. How does that make you feel?

Mistakes will always happen, even to the most experienced Account Manager. It's highly tempting to cover up a mistake with a lie, especially when the affected party is disappointed or angry. Admitting to mistakes may be hard but the benefits of doing so outweigh the damage done if you don’t do so. By being honest (to your client and/or your team), you allow people the opportunity to alter their plans in time to minimise the impact of the mistake, and people will respect you more when you tell a difficult truth. They may not like what you have to say, but they will think more of you for having the guts to say it.

Honesty is part of delivering excellent customer service. Honesty builds trust. Trust builds rapport. Rapport builds your business and your bottom line. 

Honesty builds trust. Trust builds rapport. Rapport builds your business and your bottom line. – Sarah Ritchie


For the sake of your of your conscience, your health, your business, your relationships and your reputation, I strongly advise that you build a daily habit of truth-telling and honesty. By doing so you will move from being a regular Account Manager (functionally-competent at best) to being a trusted Account Manager - a valued extension of your client's business.



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