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Carl Hopkins Public Relations Feature

Unle Carl: Carl Hopkins helps with your dilemmas

By The Drum | Administrator

July 25, 2008 | 8 min read

The honest Uncle Sometimes the truth hurts. As such, Uncle Carl has been known to inflict some serious pain. The man who put the “Agony” into Agony Uncle is here to offer some home truths. But, as a few good men have asked before, can you handle the

Dear Uncle Carl,

I’ve been made redundant, along with several of my colleagues, from the agency where I’ve worked for the last eight years. I’m an account director and am unsure about my next move. I have a mortgage, so there’s no dallying on this one - I need to make a decision pretty quickly.

First of all, I’m sorry to hear of your plight but as dark as you may think things are, do not worry and mope, many survive and so will you, I am sure. First, if you can, sort out any finances you have at home and talk with your bank to let them know about your situation, do all of this so you know how long you can ‘survive’ without a steady income, then open your mind to the possibilities of what you could do.

You know you can be an account director so you can simply let all the recruitment agencies know of you. You can also be a little more proactive and spend the day getting in touch with the agencies directly saving them the extortionate recruitment company’s fees.

Also consider agencies that are not your ‘usual’ suspects – you would be surprised how easily your skills can be transferred or how many agencies are looking to add ‘experts’ from other areas.

Would you perhaps consider client side roles? Would you consider temporary roles to help with maternity cover or help on pitch work? Would you consider freelance roles? Has there been another totally different project you have always fancied doing but were too busy or scared to start – now could be the perfect time. Seek out opportunities not money, the right opportunities will bring the reward.

Dear Uncle Carl,

Can you tell us about the worst client experience you’ve had and how you overcame it?

We’ve got a bit of a situation at the moment and I’d be interested to hear how an agony uncle tackles his problems.

There are not enough pages to tell you the problems I have had and if I don’t know your specific problem I cannot pass on my words of wisdom... So as some sort of moral support, I will give you a few one line anecdotes for you to consider – all are true client problems I have faced and lived to tell the tale:

Very important client calls me in my hotel room, asks if she can join me... Client walks into a pitch in the agency and asks a fat member of my staff “when is the baby due?”... On first meeting with a client I was greeted with “so you’re that c**t Carl Hopkins”... Have been dragged to Bradford (bad) to be fired from a million pound account (bad) to return to car which wouldn’t start (bad) to be then propositioned by a hag of a whore (bad)... Clients sleeping with not one but two members of your staff...

Jumping in to break up client, supplier, agency fist fights... I have seen them all, so now what is your problem, and is it really a problem?

Dear Uncle Carl,

In this time of financial uncertainty, what are the first signs that a company might be in trouble?

You probably won’t see the first signs and that’s the truth. The problems and the tell tale signs of problems start behind closed doors – clients cancel work or reduce spending, new forecasts are discussed, drawn up and re-drawn by directors, new business efforts are re-doubled and your charging structures start to head south.

Account groups are asked to ‘get on top of invoicing’ and you are asked to do new forecasts over and over again, reminders are sent to staff that say ‘when you travel, think if you need to? Are you sharing rooms in hotels? Do you need to stay over at all?’

Then your agency stops its advertising or PR, you lose members of your team but no one is taken on to replace or enhance the department, your accounts dept get slower at paying your suppliers.

It can even get to the point where ‘the bosses’ stop paying themselves – it happens, trust me.

And only after some, or all of this, do you finally get called together to be told ‘things are looking challenging’ and ‘belts need to be tightened’ and at that point it can be too late and big, painful decisions need to be made.

So, if you are seeing what you think are signs then (1) You may be misreading them so ask someone who should know or (2) It’s already too late.

If indeed there are problems then decide if you are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution – ‘trouble’ doesn’t have to mean ‘end’.

Dear Uncle Carl,

I’m a female account manager and am constantly referred to with terms of endearment, like ‘sweetheart’, ‘honey’ and ‘darling’, whereas the men are called ‘mate’ and ‘fella’. Is it oversensitive of me to find this offensive?

Very PC type response required I fear. No, I don’t think you are being oversensitive sweetie. It should be your decision, honey, about which people may start calling you by ‘over familiar’ terms and not theirs.

It is a fundamental sign of respect to use someone’s name and just like you, darling, it really pisses me off when people do not use my name.

I had a staff member once call me ‘Carlo’ - fucking ‘Carlo’. The first time it happened I simply told her ‘only my father calls me Carlo and only when he is drunk and you are neither so don’t do it’ and she didn’t.

So I suggest you simply ask the chaps to use your name and if they don’t then maybe you should develop your own ‘endearing’ response. The next time they say ‘morning sweetheart’ say ‘morning pencil-dick’ right back – they’ll soon get the message. Okay babe?

Dear Uncle Carl,

I’ve fallen in love. Which is great, but I’m struggling to juggle my new romance with the demands of life in advertising. I’m not complaining, as I love my job and have never shied away from early starts and late finishes, but I’d like to know if you have any tips for how to maintain both a healthy personal and professional life...

What the frick do I know? It’s probably due to the pressure of work and a huge imbalance that my first marriage ran out of steam (romantic appraisal). And my second marriage is to an ex-employee, so again, hardly a balanced approach! Therefore I’m maybe not the best person to ask... or perhaps I am. It is said we only learn from our mistakes, so in that case I’m a fucking expert!

So, Uncle Carl suggests you just make sure your new love understands what it is you do and the fact that we work in an odd industry that is anything but nine to five.

Encourage your work to have ‘partner’ social events so they can meet other partners of your buddies to realise they are not the only ones eating cold pizza late at night waiting for you to return from a candle-burning ‘pitch’ process. Simply talk about your job to your partner and make sure you listen when they talk about theirs and when you have time together focus on each other and not the next great piece of advertising you plan on creating - don’t become an advertising-bore.

are you troubled? Don’t be. send all your questions for the drum’s agony uncle to dear.carl@carnyx.com Or, If you wish to meet with carl to talk about your business, then simply email him on ch@kloog.ch

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