Why our creds deck sucks

Writing a credentials deck can be a painful process. See what Something Different's Meghan Linehan has to say about it.

In one sentence, tell us why you love your mom. We’ll wait….

It’s an almost impossible task. She took care of you when you were sick. She listened when you were sad. Maybe she made you chocolate chip pancakes for dinner or checked under the bed for monsters. There’re a million little reasons she’s special and different from everyone else’s Mom.

The point is some things just can’t be captured in a couple of words. Or even a couple of paragraphs.

If you’ve ever tried to write a credentials deck, you’ll know what I mean.

I speak from experience. Writing our credentials deck has been a painful process for everyone at Something Different. Every few weeks we revisit words, rewrite case studies, reorder slides and after about 117 iterations (that’s not too far from the truth) we still scroll through and think "meh, it’s ok".  But does it really feel like who we are? And where are the chocolate chip pancakes?

It’s not because we don’t like talking about ourselves. While none of us are particularly egomaniacal, we do genuinely love the work we’ve done, have great stories about the brands we’ve worked on and the clients we’ve become friends with along the way.

But those are facts. The difficulty lies in trying to succinctly capture what makes you, you. And sometimes words just don't do that justice. Anyone can say "we’re nimble" or "we’re different." How do you capture the intangibles?  Sure doesn’t feel like it’s in a deck.

Credentials decks do serve a useful, but limited, purpose. They provide ready-made answers to standard questions that arise whenever an agency walks into a room for the first time, responds to an RFP or even interviews a prospective employee - "Who are you?"; "What do you do well? ;"What have you done to prove it?" You know, the tangibles.

Although there is this thing called the internet with all these websites. We have one that pretty much tells you what you need to know about us. Odds are so do you.

What we wish credentials could talk about is how we got to where we got, how we arrive at our ideas and why it works for all of us; not just clients, but employees too. That’s what actually makes our agency "something different." How our business plan was conceived on a particularly brutal big agency shoot. How the talent we have access to is insane. How a bunch of us are parents. How a bunch aren’t. How we coach teams, review homework and do college visits. How none of us are defined by our titles. How we all love our jobs to death and, specifically, why all of the above helps you.

As a means for capturing uniqueness, character and personality, credentials decks inevitably shortchange agencies and fail to inform clients about what really makes a difference to their brands. Traits such as likeability and personal integrity can’t be adequately captured in a PowerPoint slide. It’s not possible to measure team chemistry through data analytics. Yet it is precisely those qualities, rather than a laundry list of past accomplishments and meaningless buzz words , that are crucial to a successful and satisfying client/agency relationship.  

Suffice to say our credentials are a work in progress. And we’re thinking there actually may not be a magic bullet.

Maybe someone just has to meet your mom to understand how great she is.

Meghan Linehan is director of accounts at Something Different, New York.

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