Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I am a creative with a severe case of writer's block. I just don't seem to be able to crack anything at the moment and my creative director has stopped giving my partner and me the big projects. I am 29 but maybe I'm past my prime. How can I get my mojo back?

A: How many times do I have to tell you? Ditch your partner. Two heads may be better than one but they don't have to be the same two heads from this day forth for evermore. What you need is a bit of spice in your life, a bit of nervousness and uncertainty, even a bit of inspirational guilt. Practise polygamy.

Your ex won't speak to you for days but will love you for it later.

Q: (One long question coming.) Technology's marvellous, isn't it? Being at the epicentre of a small but flourishing agency, I can be in constant contact with clients, colleagues, family and friends etc. But in this age of "mobile" relationships, I am required to carry a BlackBerry, a mobile phone (because BlackBerries make poor phones), I have a PC at work and a laptop for home. And, of course, there is a whole series of rolling conversations and meetings going on at the office all day. Luckily, the office is small enough to "walk to talk", but having people hanging around my desk can get in the way of answering important e-mails and telephone calls, etc, etc. Or is this the wrong attitude? My dilemma is this, which "device" to answer first? Is a telephone call more urgent than an e-mail or text, or a conversation, or vice versa? Is it rude to reply to a client e-mail while a colleague is waiting to talk? Yes, I know electronic devices can accept messages but then I have to find time to answer them, don't I?

So the problem starts again. I suspect that this is all a time management and prioritisation issue as much as anything, but I worry that I'm getting the protocol wrong.

Please justify your answer bearing in mind that the subject/content of all these communications is rarely fully known before being entered into.

What exactly is the communications hierarchy of messaging, and messaging reply decorum, in the 24-hour office? (Phew, it's over.)

A: The problem you pose is a simple and familiar one. I knew what you were going to say half way through your first sentence. Yet you banged on for another 250 words. This is what it boiled down to:

I have a BlackBerry, a mobile phone, a PC at work and a laptop at home.

At the office, there are meetings and conversations all the time. How do I decide in which order to respond to these multiple demands?

That's 40 words. You used six times as many to say the same thing, by the end of which I had lost the will to live. If this is how you conduct your life, I'm amazed you found the time to tell me how little time you have. You take six times as long to do things as you need to. Put that right, and you'll suddenly find you can do six times as much work - or, alternatively, opt for a one-day week.

Now to your question. You can usually decide in which order messages should be taken by the application of a simple formula: Caller+Chosen Medium.

Thus: Client+Telephone demands priority treatment. Had the client not wanted to speak to you immediately, another medium would have been chosen.

At the other end of the scale, HR Department+Lotus Notes is probably congratulating Wendy in Accounts Receivable on her engagement to Grant and can probably wait for a bit. Wendy won't mind.

In other words: these technologies don't in themselves constitute a natural hierarchy; but the senders do. Once you've got the hang of this - and learnt to reply to simple questions in under 250 words - you should be just fine.

It's never rude to reply to a client e-mail.

Q: I have recently joined a company as the marketing director and I am keen to set a review in progress. The problem is, we have developed a bit of a reputation in adland for our capricious nature when it comes to advertising agencies. Is there any way of convincing them that we are serious this time?

A: No. But luckily for you, it doesn't matter. Agencies are as skilled at self-deception as Rod Stewart's wives. Just as each wife knows that she's the one to change Rod's ways, so each agency will know that they're the one to change yours.

However: should a respected agency courteously decline your invitation to compete, you should probably appoint them sight unseen.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone 020 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.