Steve Martin summed it up quite well, in my opinion — “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
I think this applies to the role of the Traffic Manager.
Think about it for a moment. If you know everything going on with the agency workload, people are going to come to you for answers. By them doing so, you learn even more about what’s happening around you. You can then better do your job and help ensure the success of the agency in the process — They can’t ignore you.
I often hear Traffic Managers say, “They just go around me” or “I didn’t know he was working on that…” Here are a few actions and processes I recommend incorporating into your day-to-day routine, bringing you even further into the workflow loop.
1. Whether or not you’re a morning person, show some enthusiasm when you walk through the door. Go around the office and say, “Good morning!” to everyone. If you’re excited to start the day, chances are, they will be too. You could really go out on a limb and bring someone a cup of coffee.
2. Be encouraging during the morning meeting. If your agency uses a JOLT format, for example, always have something to say at the end of the meeting — “It’s going to be a busy week, but we’ve got this!” or “I’ll make sure I have X to you a.s.a.p.” and so on. End the meeting on a positive note.
3. Attend as many kickoff meetings as possible. I’m not saying you have to sit through an hour-long meeting and listen to every detail being discussed. Sit in on the meeting, during the first 5-10 min. for example, and get an overall feel for what’s coming. Maybe even ask, as the meeting begins, “What can you tell me in terms of ballpark timing, just so I know how to work the schedule once I receive your Creative Brief? I look forward to seeing your notes!” [Exit stage left].
4. Try to physically route work whenever possible. If the Art Director needs to speak directly with the Account Executive (AE) to explain his concept, for example, it’s better to let him route the materials. If simple revisions are involved, there’s no reason you shouldn’t walk the outputs to the AE. This gives you an opportunity to chat with the AE and ask, “Anything else going on that I should know about?”
5. I’ve said this several times, but it bears repeating. Praise your employees for using the system — “Ann, great job getting your notes in so quickly!” We all love positive reinforcement, lets face it. If we feel like we’re doing a good job, and that’s being recognized by others, we’re more inclined to work harder. Consider incorporating this praise into what you say at the end of JOLT (see item 1, above) — “Team, I’m so thankful you’re keeping me in the loop! Great job, everyone!”
6. Know It All. I’ve just shamelessly stolen that line from CurrentTrack. Sorry, but it’s a great line. “Knowing it all,” as a Traffic Manger, is very important. I’m not saying you have to know every dimension of every ad that’s being produced. Those notes should already be in the system for the Art Director to reference. You should, however, know that three ads are due Monday. It’s critical for you to have a general sense of everything that’s moving about in-house. Don’t be afraid to make handwritten notes, a “hot” list for yourself, whatever it takes — Have the answers ready when someone asks.
Free stuff alert! If you’d like to receive a free Know It All t-shirt (size L), send an e-mail with your name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send one along and you can proudly show everyone in your agency that you’re, in fact, a Know it All.
If you do your job as a Traffic Manager, and do it well, people within the agency won’t be able to ignore you. They’ll be less likely to bypass you and more inclined to put information into the system. I realize the six items I’ve outlined above aren’t silver bullets that are going to suddenly make everyone fall over one another to bring you into the workflow loop. I do, however, feel these actions and processes will make you more “top of mind.”