Priscilla Jeha Founder and Managing Director of The Together Society left a global executive career to forge a client centred communications agency focused on value and trust. With over 20 years leading integrated teams across 35 international markets, she has created work for brands of all sizes and stages.
A passion for challenging herself in her personal and professional life has always driven her, and consequently as well as developing her trademarked Maestro Project Management approach, Priscilla can fly a plane and crew a yacht.
Why did you leave an agency executive career managing large teams to start The Together Society ?
Throughout my career, I have been struck by certain layers of ineffectiveness in the traditional agency model. Amongst the ‘gold’, I have seen really obvious inefficiencies in both time and money and a general lack of experience and motivation in adding layers of value for clients instead.
The most basic truth is that while the traditional agency model works really well for some big organisations; more and more clients are seeing those deficiencies and bolstering up their own internal teams, or seeking alternative lean structures to plug in missing resources.
I feel really privileged to have a number of close relationships with various CMO’s and Heads of Marketing. In 2019, I embarked on a series of conversations with a number of them who generously shared their pain points of the traditional agency model with me. There were some really consistent bug bears across the board:
- Lack of genuine creative collaboration.
- Agency arrogance.
- Sick of paying for the all the layers and ‘agency pomp’.
- Lack of integration between the client and agency teams.
The overall sentiment was that the traditional agency + client relationship was a bit stale, a bit broken and a bit underwhelming. It was also fundamentally lacking trust; and left clients doubting the authenticity of agency love for them. From those conversations, I set about looking at a model that could turn those sentiments around, and The Together Society was born.
Why is trust so fundamental to the agency/ client relationship, and how can this work in practice?
Any great relationship is based on trust and in most cases it is formed over time – not just given. In the creative and communication industry, clients pay sums of money TRUSTING agencies to best represent their brand, it’s values and messages to the world. That’s a big call. It’s part of why I think the irksome pitch process hasn’t evolved yet – because clients can’t bring themselves to fully trust without unequivocal proof that who they decide to partner with, is right for them.
Agencies ask clients to trust them all the time. And mostly it’s requested with the right intentions, but sometimes it’s subconsciously demanded because… look at the trophy cabinet in the agency reception. But what the agency is not necessarily the immediate expert at, is the client’s particular brand, category, challenge or long term vision. It’s the agency that takes the time to work with the client in every way – above and beyond, professional and personal (obviously without being creepy!) – that will earn their trust more quickly. It’s sincerely and genuinely thinking of them / their business / their team / their challenges – even when you’re not on the clock, that will earn their favour.
Tell us about your trademarked Maestro Project Management approach, that you developed based on 25 years of experience, and why it works.
The Account Service team are the glue between the client and the rest of the agency. They smooth the waters between departments and client; and the best operators have an innate ability to pre-empt what their client will need or want, before they do. They think upstream and they generate value and in turn growth, by listening to and understanding the ambitions and challenges of their client and then delivering that value through a series of consistent behaviours.
When your role is to be your clients’ critical central communication point (the cog) to the rest of the agency, project management should take the form of a masterful conductor of an orchestra – the Maestro! The best ones know exactly when to bring in the right sections of the agency orchestra; at the right time. They also know that the casting required for any project (and longer term relationship) is critical to success – the talent, the skillset, the experience, the approach, the personality. They carefully curate it all – team, operations, ambitions, reporting, value.
I developed Maestro Project Management ™ as a practical, best in class project management guide that is effectively a behavioural roadmap to delivering growth with clients based on a value exchange – beyond just financial metrics. It is based on my 25+ years of experience in agencies; observing people who I think are the best of the best in this area (and sometimes others at the other end of the scale too). Ultimately, good or bad, all were important observations to gather the data and understand what actions and behaviours genuinely deliver value and authentically grow relationships with clients. We all know that organic growth from any existing client relationship is far easier and cost-effective than seeking out new growth. I consider complacency the arch enemy to delivering great agency Client Service.
How has being a big believer in reaching outside your comfort zone driven changes in your life and work?
I shudder a bit when I think of normal things. My Father has said that I always tend to take the ‘hard road’ but I just don’t think I was ever destined to NOT take the path less trodden – which actually fills me with excitement. When I was 40 and decided to have children, I chose to do so on my own terms with a sperm donor. My twins are now 6 years old and without a doubt the very best thing I have ever done in my life. But before they were even a twinkle in my eye, I was always pursuing relatively ‘out there’ challenges in life.
When I lived in London, I broke up with a guy I had been seeing for a while and was out at the pub commiserating with my girlfriends and a couple of bottles of wine. That night instead of the vowing to get ‘revenge bod’ fit, I set myself a task that went on to be known as my ‘Air, Land and Sea Challenge’. I was determined to learn how to fly a plane (air); run two marathons within a year (land) and then learn how to sail and crew in a yacht race (sea). I now have my Recreational Pilots License, ran both Paris and Milan marathons and crewed on ‘Loco’ a Sydney 40 yacht in the Rolex Fastnet race in the UK.
What this mental approach achieves in my business is that I feel like I both attract and am attracted to people who also have an insatiable thirst and curiosity for the world. They think beyond the challenge. Beyond the brief. And as a result, deliver incredible value and build trust both authentically and quickly. I’ve actually just purchased a 1950’s block of five apartments and am about to renovate those as a legacy for my twins – I can’t wait to get started on that new challenge!
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