You’ve completed the RFP process, narrowed down your shortlist of contenders, listened to a vast array of creative pitches and finally handed out the golden ticket to one outstanding agency. Congrats, you’ve reached the finish…err, starting line!
Whether you’re a veteran Communications Director who has worked with a variety of agencies or a non marketing/communications staffer responsible for managing the agency, here are some best practices that will get your new partnership off on the right foot.
1. Provide A Series of Deep Immersion Meetings
No one will understand your company, organization, internal culture and constraints like you do. Devote time and resources to ensure your agency has the necessary background and insight into as much as possible both relevant to the project and any personnel or departments impacting the project. Don’t limit this to a single kickoff meeting. Conduct a kickoff meeting and then a series of follow up immersion meetings that include area experts to surface all the nitty gritty details. This is critical and I ensure you that the effort will save time as your agency deep dives into their strategic planning phase.
During the first couple weeks of working with a new client, your agency is adjusting their approach in real-time to ensure they have the best possible team and resources in place to service your account. Keep the questions coming from both sides to make sure everyone has as much information as possible. The faster you can both learn each other’s desired work and communication styles, the better off you’ll be.
2. Establish Routine & Meet With a Purpose
Establishing regular weekly check-ins, status updates and monthly snapshot reports will save time for all parties involved. Don’t meet just to meet. Make sure that there is a specific reason a meeting is being held, that only the necessary parties attend and that a short agenda is in place with a clear call to action and takeaways/next steps. Too many big meetings up front can cause for quick budget exasperation and ineffective transition into quick deliverables.
Furthermore, learn each other’s communications preferences. You may find that you’re both early birds and can knock out quick responses or projects before most arrive for the day.
3. Get to Know Each Other Personally
You’re going to be working with your agency on a daily basis. Just as you benefit from knowing your closest colleagues on a personal level, the same applies with your agency partner. Understanding each other’s personal hobbies and interests will also inevitably provide insight into hidden skills or talents that can be of great use down the line for various projects.
4. Trust Your Agency
Agencies are chalk full of talented communications experts that work with a vast array of clients. In that sense, they bring a great deal of outside perspective and experience to the table. That doesn’t mean that every initial strategy will be spot on but it does mean that there is good reason and smart thinking backing ideas that are posed. Listen. Provide feedback. Adjust. Provide more feedback. Bring your agency over to help you present or sell-in an idea or creative concept to your boss. Let them take a stand and get your back so that there is clear explanation and rationale backing ideas presented.
On that same token, push back when an idea doesn’t feel right but provide full rationale. Was a key consideration overlooked or was there an important nugget of information that simply was not clearly communicated? Hedge early on what can evolve into bigger issues down the line.
5. Pose No Boundaries
Whether you are focused on a product launch, managing legislative affairs or looking for a new video idea, remove restrictions early on. Ideas can always be scaled down but you’re not doing your partnership justice by constraining thinking from the beginning. Chances are usually good that there is a way to support and fund an idea…if it’s the right one. Often, what we think of as “big ideas” can be broken down into smaller nuggets that can build over time.
BONUS: Celebrate the Milestones
Chances are good that you’ve hired an agency because you’re working to solve a difficult business problem. Big business problems are rarely solved overnight. Create a manageable timeline with milestones to help celebrate key success points together. Last, but never least, HAVE FUN!
What other tips would you add from the agency side?
Rachel Thexton recently provided some great additional insights around working with an agency over on Communications Conversations. Check it out!
Image courtesy of Wirawat Lian-udom.
I was 15-years old when I first picked up the guitar. And like, I don’t know… 19 or 20 before I set it down for more than a few minutes at a time. I played that thing constantly. Hours and hours of memorizing finger positions, fumbling over chords and willing my helpless, weakling, runt-of-the-litter pinky finger to “man up” and stop holding the other fingers back. It took time. But eventually, I got to a point where I knew what I was doing.
Years later, I’d see friends take up the instrument, only to surrender forever after just a week or two, saying things like, “I’m not musically inclined” or “my fingers are too fat.” They couldn’t play immediately, so clearly it was a physical shortcoming or lack of some mystical, natural-born talent that stood between them and rock-guitar god immortality.
A lot of people believe that writing is like playing a musical instrument. It’s just one of those talents you either have or you don’t. And many people who have the potential to be good writers shy away from it rather than put in the time and effort needed to get better.
There’s a huge emphasis on storytelling in our industry right now. And I firmly believe that the best written, best told stories are the ones that will cut through the noise and get people to take notice. So, to grab attention and hold it, it’s important that everyone improve their writing skills.
Here are a handful of things you should think about:
- Avoid buzzwords and jargon. Always.
- Don’t try to prove you can write well by using big, fancy words you wouldn’t use in conversation. Keep it simple.
- Write the way people talk. If what you’ve written feels awkward to you, it is. Change it to something that feels more natural.
- Never underestimate the power of a good lead/lede. If you can’t hook someone from the start, you’ll lose them and they won’t stick around to see how your piece ends.
- Don’t fake it. If you don’t understand what you’re writing about, your reader won’t either. Have a solid grasp on what you’re communicating.
- Come up with a headline that piques curiosity. [See above].
- Don’t overload your sentences with numbers and stats. A 2010 study on numbers in sentences found that some 62% of readers spent 2/3 of their time over a 6 month period… Zzzzzz.
- Spelling and grammar matter. If you don’t know the basics, learn ‘em.
- Don’t get discouraged. Writing is a very personal thing, and the editing process can give the ego a beat down. Don’t take it personally.
- Write every day.
Writing is hard. And making it look easy is even harder. But, like anything, it takes time to improve. So, put in the effort. Whether you think you’re a natural or not, good writing is in you. Your fingers are not too fat.
Image courtesy of Alex Cheek.