[COMMENT] Professional definition is ‘of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession’.
Courtesy definition is ‘courteous – polite, respectful, or considerate in manner’.
Combined definition is ‘a philosophy of particular professional behaviour or etiquette which is extended between members of the same profession’.
I’ve been in the media industry for most of my career, which began at the dawn of the internet. Then, the only mobile communication was a brick of a satellite phone in my boss’s BMW soft-top cabriolet (he didn’t even know then that he was an influencer!). Little did we understand that in just over two decades, almost every human in South Africa would have a mobile phone.
And with that, came a world of change in marketing and advertising.
In those days of selling advertising space to small businesses in the building and décor industries, a journey to Pretoria from Sandton was a road trip, preceded by mapping out the route with a well-worn map book and highlighter to make sure both time and fuel was maximised by booking back to back meetings to convert as many prospects as possible.
In the days when we sourced our leads from the telephone directory, one of my toughest negotiations was convincing our boutique publisher that an investment in providing cellular phones for the sales team would yield good returns.
Mike Braby, an astute businessman with a sense of fairness, relented and gave us the kudos of being early adopters. The day I got a call (on my mobile) from a Pretoria company to cancel our planned meeting was the perfect ammunition; that call had just saved me a 100km round trip! To a young, determined advertising sales representative, paying off a bond while trying to remain debt free, it was all the persuasion I needed to adopt any technology available to save time and money.
Then came company websites with contacts and GPS co-ordinates, and gone were the map books and highlighters. Now all it took was a call or email to set up an appointment, a GPS (and later map apps) to make it to the correct location. On time.
Fast forward 25 years and the question arises: Why does the industry I have proudly served which has evolved – in so many ways for the better – not show a basic respect for business associates?
Whether the buyer or the seller, it’s a professional courtesy to show up. On time.
Every time I mention this in a group setting, there are very few people who don’t have an example to share of colleagues, clients and peers arriving late and in the worst case scenarios, people have invested valuable time and expense to fly into other cities, only to have a meeting cancelled at the last minute, often with a disclaimer “Didn’t you get my email?”
When did this become acceptable? Of course, there will be occasional and genuine emergencies; thankfully mobile phones give us instant accessibility to anyone who is expecting us, 24/7.
When I started out in ad sales in the mid ‘90s there wasn’t an actual code of conduct per se but we did have a code of honour among us and it was this simple:
Follow up with -or- respond to promised/further information.
Agree and meet a reasonable timeframe for next steps.
A few extra considerations, which should (though perhaps not) go without saying;
If there is an unavoidable delay, simply let the person know as soon as possible.
First impressions do last. As a personal benchmark when meeting a new business associate, I start with an ‘account’ full of trust. Each time there is transaction, debit or deposit, my currency of trust fluctuates. Being late, is a debit. Not turning up, is a debit. Not tuning in even if you have turned up, is a debit. Not following up with a promised action to progress whatever business we are collaborating on, is a debit. Not meeting an agreed deadline, is a debit.
When Ruggero Bonomi and I were representing GQ we took OMD media buyers/planners to lunch. Margie Knapp joined us but left early to allow her team to let their hair down a little. As she got up, I ’suggested’ to Reg with my eyebrows to get up, and he did. Afterwards he asked me why this was important in these times? I told him people might not notice if you don’t, but people will always notice if you do.
I feel the same way about business etiquette. Given the times, people may not (necessarily) notice if you don’t, but they will always notice if you do (behave with professional courtesy).
I implore our young advertising, media and marketing professionals to use the technology available to you to show your professional courtesy as a sign of respect for those you are doing business with. Please.
Turn up. On time. Tune in. Follow up. Respond.
Media and marketing pioneer Josephine Buys, who is the former and founding CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa, is now the CEO for The Publisher Research Council. Buys’ diverse career has placed her at the forefront of embracing media in a variety of industries [and platforms], from publishing and entertainment, to agencies and the public sector. Her experience spans sales, marketing, brand development and e-commerce. In each instance of her career she has set herself apart with her strategic intuition and infectious energy, helping organisations to affect real and lasting change in the marketing and advertising sector. @jozib_sa
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