Every working relationship is unique. Just like one-on-one connections, agency-client relationships differ in communication styles and preferences, work styles, priorities and more.
Investing time and resources into improving your agency relationships can yield better results for your business and less stress for team members. Check out our six tips for getting the most out of your agency relationships below.
Seek out an agency that’s a natural fit
Agency partners should be good culture and value fits for your organization. Consider whether the agency functions similarly to your own office. Do their working hours align with yours? Do they respond to messages at a speed that’s appropriate for the pace of your business? Approach hiring an agency just as you’d hire an internal team member.
On the flip side, it’s important to make sure your team has the capacity to meet the agency halfway. Do they have enough time to be agile and jump into action when requested by the agency, or do you need to find an agency that’s willing to plan projects weeks in advance? Consider how the working style of your new agency will affect your employees’ wellbeing before diving into a misaligned relationship.
Your agency’s core values should also feel like a natural fit with those of your organization and your team. Not only will this ensure your in-house and agency teams will work together easily, but it will promote action towards a shared purpose.
(Check out REED’s core values here).
Identify success upfront
Success looks different for every organization. Make sure you define your measurement of success at the inception of your agency relationship. Perhaps you’d like to focus on hitting certain KPIs for engagement, or maybe you need to secure a certain amount of community partnerships. Whatever it may be, make sure your agency partner has your specific, measurable goals in writing and is working towards them from day one. Nothing breaks down an agency relationship faster than muddy communication about organizational goals and priorities.
Additionally, make sure the KPIs you’ve selected to measure agency results support the ultimate goals you’ve outlined. Irrelevant KPIs will only lead to off-track work, and that’s not helping anyone.
Structure your workflow accordingly
Avoid overlaps, redundancies or gaps in efforts between your in-house team and the agency. Ensuring only one team is handling each task (and no tasks are unassigned) will lead to a more seamless partnership. You should also strive to clearly define the tasks you need assistance with from your agency upfront and recognize that requests outside of this scope might come with additional costs.
Pro tip: the earlier you share information about new projects with your agency, the better! Even several months out allows your agency partner to plan and produce the best possible results for your organization.
Clearly outline your communication preferences and who from your team will be the agency’s point of contact. Be honest—if you’re not great with email but always get back to a text, ask your agency partner to text with any urgent updates. Your agency partner should be more than happy to oblige, and it will save all parties involved valuable time!
It’s also worth identifying a chain of command in times of crisis so your agency can jump into action immediately. Clearly defining approval processes will help you avoid additional issues down the line.
(Check out our blog about why you should develop a crisis communications plan before disaster strikes here.)
Train your agency point of contact to manage the relationship
As with any new role, members of your team should receive training in agency management to secure the best possible results. Inefficient communications with your agency partner will lead to mismanaged time and subpar results.
Share resources (like this one!) that best exemplify the symbiotic nature of these relationships to ensure your team is making the most of your agency relationships across the board.
Employ full transparency
If you can’t be transparent with your agency, you’re limiting their capacity to secure the best possible results. You must be willing to share the whole story—good, bad and ugly—so your agency does not run into surprise crises. This is especially important for public relations firms that have to handle public crisis management on your behalf.
Efficient, effective and transparent feedback is also a valuable tool for getting the most out of your agency relationships. If you would like changes made to a document, share specific requests rather than sweeping generalizations. Respond to all requests for feedback in a timely manner, even if it’s to let your agency know you’ll get back to them in a few days.
Most importantly, trust your agency’s work. They are the experts in their field, after all! Give them the space and flexibility to run with creative ideas. Oftentimes, the risk will be worth the reward.
At the end of the day, transparency can bring you one step closer to morphing your agency into an extension of your brand—the ultimate goal of any agency relationship.