Key to Successful Client Relations: Overcommunicate

By Kathryn Smith

Rhett Ahlander’s creative side showed itself at the age of 11, when he would make up and design his own logos and ads in a journal, although sadly those are lost in time. After briefly attending med school, Ahlander went back to his original passion for advertising and attended Utah Valley University, majoring in public relations with a digital media minor. Wanting more, he looked into graduate schools, and chose DePaul because “it was the best.”

At DePaul, Ahlander met Marshall Goldman, a professor who would become one of his role models, too. Among his lessons on copywriting, Ahlander credited Goldman with instilling in him the importance of having a strong work-life balance, which he does now by riding motorcycles, skydiving, and doing anything that just seems fun.

The ability to work with real clients and real-world problems while at DePaul prepared Ahlander for life outside university. After graduation, the stars aligned, and he found a job at Ogilvy on a new team that eventually led to him becoming a copywriter. Now, he works in Utah as a campaign manager for Branded Entertainment Network and enjoys having more control over each aspect of a project.

Asked if he felt there was a defining moment in his career, Ahlander answered “no.” He believes it’s “a lot of little points” that shaped his life and career. He learned what he didn’t want to do along the way, eventually narrowing it down that he was good at writing and good at communicating and loved marketing. It takes time and experience to learn what you really want, and we both agreed it would be quite incredible if you could nail it down to just one moment.

Ahlander’s key to a solid agency-client relationship? Overcommunicate, overcommunicate and overcommunicate a bit more.

Ahlander explained he currently works with influencers and gets creators to make content for YouTube and Instagram and having both parties understand what the other is dealing with is important. Knowing what each party is encountering and why certain things need to be a certain way will make relationships smoother. Overcommunication has worked for Ahlander because it helps clients both see his side and be on his side.

Try and understand things from the perspective of the client, because, well, “sometimes things are just wacky.”

Of course, not all agency-client relationships are perfect, and even strong relationships can have their issues. For instance, working with people all around the world means working with different cultures and different work styles. When this becomes a problem, Ahlander relies on his go-to advice: overcommunicate. See the work from a different perspective and understand where the client is coming from.

Ahlander knows without this advice he would not be where he is today. He’s had to adjust how he works to fit the needs of clients and recognizes his growth over the years.

“You get very perseverant in this job, in this industry…and it’s kind of cool to see how far I’ve come.” I, for one, can’t wait to see where else he goes.

Kathryn Smith is in her final year of graduate school studying Public Relations and Advertising at DePaul University. She graduated from the University of St. Andrews with a degree in international relations and Middle Eastern Studies.


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