The search for an agency is like a lot like dating. You talk to several different candidates, determine whether they meet your criteria and then meet in-person for a chemistry check. If it’s a good match, you move forward with the relationship. But once you’ve found “the one,” it’s important to build a solid foundation. It’s those building blocks that you’ll use to reinforce the relationship as time goes on.
I recently started working with a healthcare client that had little experience working with communications agencies. We began our relationship by defining agreed-upon objectives and shared expectations. We told them what they can expect from us, and what they can do to help us be our best for them. This foundation is something we’ve revisited more than once in the last six months to make sure they’re getting the most value possible out of their relationship with us. You can do this with your agency, too. Focus on these three key things:
1. Share everything. Actually.
One of the best things you can do for your agency relationship is to immerse your agency contacts in your business and keep them in the loop on any shifts in strategy. Remember, your agency is under an NDA just like your internal team, so you should feel comfortable turning to them for counsel knowing that all information is confidential. Keeping your agency informed helps them proactively strategize on new ways to add value and helps ensure their work stays aligned with your highest priorities. Things to share include:
- Business strategy changes
- New initiatives
- Personnel changes
- Financial information
- Partner information
- Challenges within the company
- Customer feedback
- Facility tours and product demos
And don’t worry, you don’t need to be the sole provider of all this information. Feel free to introduce your agency contacts to key players on your internal team. Each of them has something to offer that will help your agency advance your company’s objectives.
The world of communications is ever-changing. According to PEW Research, twenty years ago, only 12 percent of U.S. adults got news online. Today that number stands at 81 percent. And even more interesting (to me anyway): 62 percent of adults are getting their news through social media. While traditional media will continue to be important, companies need to be looking for innovative ways to reach their target audiences. Search engine marketing, social media and paid digital programs are some of the most efficient, agile and measurable marketing approaches. Yes, they do cost money, but remember, you may find that a new tactic yields higher ROI. Give your agency your trust and be open to some trial and error as you work together to optimize your program for best results.
Your agency is always looking for ways they can serve you better! Take the time to tell them when they’ve hit the mark and – as importantly – when they have an opportunity to improve. Some agencies have formal client review processes, but just like in your other relationships, it’s important to communicate openly and regularly. Sharing feedback frequently and unsolicited helps keep the lines of communication open and makes it easier for both parties when it comes to difficult conversations. (BTW, we give bonus points for sharing feedback during happy hour).