How to Streamline International Account Management

By | July 30, 2014
0    Comment(s)

International ClientsAccount management carries enough challenges on its own. But what about when it also carries more than one passport?

With tools that make it easy to collaborate and communicate, agencies are better positioned than ever to serve international clients across time zones. However, the relationship’s logistics still may pose a few challenges for account managers.

How do you set expectations, clearly communicate, manage projects and deliverables, and stay on the same page when your client is a world away?

Don’t sweat it. With just a few tweaks to your account management practices, you’ll set yourself and your clients up for success—no matter which time zone they live in.

Know Your Time Zones

Time zones are an important factor to manage from day one. Establish a time zone standard that you and the client will reference in communications, deadlines and calendar scheduling. For instance, with European clients, PR 20/20 defaults to London local time, or UTC +1.

UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time, is the accepted world time zone standard. With different ways of referencing time zones locally, it makes sense to keep everyone on the account in UTC. For instance, London local time is UTC +1, or one hour ahead of UTC, whereas New York is UTC -4, or four hours behind UTC time. Thus, there’s a five-hour difference between an agency in New York and its clients in London. To simplify, use a time zone comparison tool like this one.

Time differences also affect how your agency handles deliverables, recommendations or other collateral. Depending on how far apart your time zones are, you may only have a very small window in which to communicate with clients every day. If the client’s audience is primarily in their time zone, this also affects when content like blog posts and social shares should go live.


  • Establish a common way to reference time zones.
  • Use a time zone converter.
  • Figure out when you can expect real-time responses from clients.
  • Plan ahead to ensure deliverables and recommendations arrive in a timely manner considering the time difference and when clients are in the office.

Choose Your Communication Methods

Prepare for a lot of email; it’s an unfortunate byproduct of working in different time zones.

However, agree with clients to use tools to cut down on emails when possible. At PR 20/20, we regularly employ Google Docs to comment on and edit documents collaboratively, and Basecamp to communicate deadlines and related notes. When we need real-time chat functions, we use Skype’s call or messaging features. It’s far too easy to get wrapped in endless email chains otherwise.

No matter what your tool, know that you’ll likely be doing a lot of writing, whether it’s instant messages, emails or Basecamp messages. Because of this, It is definitely worth your while to read up on a few resources that define the differences between written and verbal communication, and how to effectively communicate in writing. It’s easy to miscommunicate or misinterpret without the benefit of verbal cues from another person. Get started with this excellent email communication guide.


  • Choose non-email tools to quickly and effectively collaborate on documents and deadlines.
  • Choose a non-email tool to default to for real-time communication.
  • Brush up on your written communication skills.

Be Aware of Holidays

Holidays will vary depending on the client’s location, but expect European offices and clients to begin slowing down in mid-July for the August holidays—when people may be out-of-office for weeks at a time. Campaign activities, deadlines and deliverables must be planned around slow periods where countries take off for extended periods of time.

For instance, you may want to focus on account activities like annual audits, updating keywords and SEO, or working on longer-form content assets during the holiday season. You’ll also want to front-load reviews, discussions or approvals before your clients leave—or face a long period of radio silence.

With just a little preparation, however, these slow periods present valuable opportunities to get a head start on key activities, take care of items you’ve been neglecting or plan for the future.


  • Identify extended slow periods that clients in different countries might experience.
  • Front-load approvals, reviews, etc. before these periods occur.
  • During slow periods, schedule tasks that you can complete without client input.

Do you have international clients? Where are they based? How does that affect account activities?

Photo credit: ToastyKen