Caroline Foster Kenny is the Chief Client Officer, Global at MEC. Caroline has 20+ years of agency experience, specialized in International Client Management and has worked across most sectors in multiple markets and regions. We recently spoke with Caroline about her current role.
The Makegood: Caroline, you have a background in International Client Management and have spent time as the Managing Director in Hong Kong. What were the unique challenges that you faced while working abroad?
CFK: I snapped up the opportunity to work abroad for what was initially a 6 month stint in Hong Kong but ended up being 6 years in Asia and was the most incredible and inspiring experience of my career. I was fortunate enough to be involved in setting up and establishing the first ever Media Specialist Agency in Asia (CIA Hong Kong) and this in itself created many challenges. Originally, we were not welcomed to the region and we faced much hostility from media owners and many of the full service agencies, concerned of the potential negative impact Media Specialists would have on their business. However as the Media Specialist industry took hold in Europe and the US, the inevitability of their relevance and presence in Asia was recognised, and like so many businesses and industries in Asia, the advancement of Media Specialism leap-frogged that of the other regions. I learnt very quickly that the pace of change in the Asian region was unparalleled, requiring much flexibility, fluidity, dynamism and the ability to continually adapt and evolve.
The Makegood: Now you are back in the UK, can you tell us about your current role?
CFK: Though based in the UK, my role at MEC is a Global one requiring a significant amount of travel with regular trips to the US.
My main focus is on our top 20 largest clients, many of these are Global Clients, such as Colgate Palmolive who we work with across 70+ markets or Chanel and some being a single market remit, such as the mighty AT&T in the US. Specifically, my role is to work with our Client Leaders of our top 20 Clients, ensuring they have everything required to deliver against our Client’s need and priorities. A lot of my time therefore is spent listening to our Clients, understanding their business issues and communication needs. With this learning, I work with our Client Leaders and our Global Chief Strategy Officer, Mel Varley, to help shape and develop the optimum service and product offer for each of those clients. We then work collectively to bring together the right skills and resources to deliver against each Client’s needs.
On a more general level, my role is to also drive ‘Client Centricity’ within MEC, ensuring that as an organization, we are continually focussed on our Clients, putting their needs first and foremost. It’s also my responsibility to lead and drive excellence in the Client Leadership and Client Service competency right across our network.
It’s a very challenging role but incredibly stimulating – I find client’s business fascinating and love the varied and international aspect of my role.
The Makegood: What would you say are the most important elements to keep in mind when managing international clients?
CFK: Those important elements of managing any Local Client also apply to managing any International Client – strategic leadership, operational excellence, clear process, attention to detail, optimum resources, trading efficiencies, effectiveness & measurement and so on – these are all critically important for success. In addition to these, given the significant number of stakeholders usually involved in multi market assignments (global, regional, local, competency, brand etc), full clarity on clear consistent process, roles and responsibilities, reporting lines and communication flow are essential. Sharing best practice across markets is usually a core function within the role and, continual two way communication across the network ensuring all stake holders are engaged, involved and informed. At the end of the day though, despite an International remit, it is the Local Client on the ground, that defines success as this is where the business is delivered and the sales are achieved, it’s important to always keep this in mind when managing any International assignment.
The Makegood: You have had a very successful career at MEC in a number of roles. What makes the agency so special?
CFK: I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had to look elsewhere for new challenges or career development opportunities as MEC has always provided this in buckets, there’s never been a dull moment! For me, there has always been a very special, unique ‘MEC-ness’ that is hard to define to those that don’t know us well. It’s about the people, the company attitude and culture, it is open, challenging, ambitious, and inspiring. I work with really smart, good people and that makes a huge difference to me. It’s a company that cares. I’m very proud to work for MEC and of the work we do for our Clients.
The Makegood: Thanks, Caroline.