03 Nov 2014
Below are some top tips on how to have a successful relationship with your agency…
1. Involve stakeholders early on
I’ve been involved in situations where clients share too little too late with their own internal stakeholders. The reality is, organisational silos inhibit success, so keeping things to yourself is unlikely, in the medium to long-term, help anyone achieve what they set out to.
2. Disclose budgets
In the real world, whenever we want to purchase a product or service, we outline the budget we have in mind – otherwise, how would the car dealership know what you mean when you say you want a “great car” or an estate agent know what you’re looking for if the only parameter is that your seeking “the perfect home”? Disclosing your budget, even as a range, helps your agency develop a proposal aligned with your expectations.
3. Treat your agency as an extension of your team
If you don’t trust your agency, you probably shouldn’t have hired them. Every piece of great client work I’ve ever been involved in has shared the same characteristic – namely, the client treated us as an extension of their own team that brought capabilities and capacity that wasn’t present inhouse.
4. Establish clear boundaries of responsibility
There’s few things worse than balls getting dropped simply because no one knew they were responsible for picking things up. Make it clear in your Statement of Work, and any plans developed subsequent, what responsibilities are owned by who.
5. Respect that they are a time based business
Agencies are usually time based businesses, billing by the hour. It’s fine if you’d like an hour long conference call with the entire team each week, but this eats of time that people could be using to deliver. Don’t get me wrong – regular communication is very important, but budget for it upfront.
6. Understand and communicate your own objectives clearly, as well as their motivating factors
It’s important that your agency clearly understands your objectives and the motivating factors behind them. This isn’t just about aligning with your corporate strategy – it’s about helping you look good by helping you contribute towards meeting that strategy.
7. Deliverables and processes should be iterative – encourage failure where it contributes to future success
Throughout the client/agency relationship, you’ll be continually learning through success and failure. Identify and leverage these learnings early, making iterative adjustments that capitalise on them. Just because the SOW states your agency will do something a particular way doesn’t mean that, with your agreement, 6 months from now they should be sticking to the letter if your interests are better served by some adjustment.
8. Flag dissatisfaction early and offer a chance to improve
Sometimes agencies don’t get it right – they put the wrong people in place or misunderstand a process or deliverable. When that happens, let them know as soon as possible so that they have a chance to rectify the situation. Letting things simmer beneath the surface until you can’t take anymore can ultimately lead to a time consuming re-pitch that diverts agency resource as well as your time.
9. Don’t let procurement weigh cost greater than capability and creativity
You know what you want from your agency, so don’t let the generalists in procurement tell you any different – it’s better to get what you need from the agency you’d prefer to work with than to be saddled with a procurement led decision where cost is the most heavily weighed factor.
10. Recognise that commercial and professional incentives are different
Agency people love to do intellectually challenging, creative work. The agencies they work for may very well love the awards that type of work might bring, but are ultimately a commercial entity so are driven by revenue, profitability and margins. Many agency people feel awkward having commercial conversations with their clients – it’s not why most of them joined the industry they’re in – so make it easy: define the amount of time based budget that should be spent on activities upfront.
Like all relationships, those between clients and their agencies take a bit of work but it’s worth a bit of give and take to get this right.
(Please note that the opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely my own and may or may not be shared by my employer and/or colleagues.)
28 Jul 2014
Clearly, as someone who has earned a living off helping brands devise and implement social media strategies for around 15 years, I’m off message with this post. Or am I?
Social platforms come and go. I remember setting up my first bulletin board system on an Apple IIe back in the mid-eightys. I clearly recall building a 5000+ person email list on Yahoo Groups in the early 90′s. I ran facilitated web chats with a variety of experts in the mid-90′s. And I created a whole slew of bulletin boards, both personally and professionally, around the same time.
I’ve always been an enthusiastic (usually) adopter of just about every social platform to emerge, and sometimes die, from the late 90′s until today.
For some time now, I’ve realised that my use of social media has segmented across three distinct use cases, based on my perceptions of time and the usefulness of contacts and communities across it. Let me explain:
The Future: I use LinkedIn, almost exclusively, to connect with and keep track of people who, in the future, might be personally or professionally relevant to me. LinkedIn is like a safety net. People I can call upon later to provide support for a project as a freelancer. Who I might want to employ. Who I might want to work with or for. I have friends, as well as professional contacts, there. But the key thing is that I want to stay in touch with contacts on LinkedIn because, if they aren’t relevant today, they might be tomorrow. That and it’s my number one source of professional content, these days.
The Present: I use Twitter for the present – through the people I follow, and those who follow me, I learn, in real time, about the world. They aggregate and filter content, then deliver it to me. Twitter has replaced RSS and google alerts for me, and the human filters it applies are, for the most part, better than the technological one’s that proceeded my enthusiasm for the platform.
The Past: Facebook has, for a long time, been sort of a storage closet of my past. It’s where I learn, usually after the funeral, of the passing of a friend from years ago. Or of a fundraising effort for a friend in need. Well, that or a fundraising effort by a friend from long ago who wants their mates to finance a charity walk the length of the Great Wall of China.
Basically, Facebook is dead to me as a social platform of preference. And it’s not just a personal thing. I’d have a really difficult time, in most instances, recommending that a client focuses their energy, or budget, there. How many brands do you follow on Facebook? What’s the last piece of branded content you engaged with? I’m guessing those two questions are ones that most people, most of the time, wouldn’t be able to answer with any accuracy or conviction.
“I loved what brand X posted the other day”. Yeah, right.
The thing is, on LinkedIn, where your professional reputation is at stake, a like means,”share this industry news with people who I might, now or later in life, have a commercial or industry related interest in connecting with.” It has meaning.
On Twitter, a re-tweet is an expression of interest, maybe professional, possibly personal. A nod to collaborative filtering and sharing. Again, it has meaning.
On Facebook, a like is more of a bookmark of something you might wish to go back to later, or possibly a nod that you’ve seen something, but not necessarily a sign that you wished to share that content, saw value in it, or agreed.
I realise, probably more than most, that Facebook is the dominant social network. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a bit shit. To me, anyway, it’s like Friend’s Reunited – a curiosity to those who care about the past, but not something that will have much value to those focused on the now or the future.
I’m going to be presenting at the European Communication Summit, Europe’s top event for in-house Communications leads.
The event takes place in Brussels on the 10th and 11th of July and has a start-studded line up of presenters including AOL’s David Shing, Lars Silberbauer-Andersen from Lego, Jimmy Mayman, CEO of the Huffington Post and many others. Details here: http://www.communication-summit.eu/
29 Jan 2014
During the one year programme, successful applicants will have the opportunity to rotate through three of our specialist practices and to work across a variety of sector areas.
The programme is a great first step towards a career at one of the World’s leading integrated Communications and Marketing agencies. Come join us.
Full details here: http://fleishman.co.uk/careers/graduate-programme/