5 Tips for Building a Great Client-Agency Partnership
Often this exercise includes an evaluation of the state of relationships they have with agency partners. Are things working? Time to make a change?
Well, even if it’s your first time engaging an agency, there are some fundamental best practices you can apply that will help ensure the kind of partnership that will yield the best results with long-term impact.
- Expectations alignment. Clearly define and communicate what is success to both parties. How will you measure it? This expectations alignment should be done collaboratively. Just dictating metrics without the agency's input puts them on the defensive right out of the gate and prevents you from getting an outsider's perspective on what it takes to get the results you want. It also helps you avoid "drinking your own Kool-aid" syndrome.
- Constant communications. Once the plans, goals and measurement metrics are in place, the most important thing you can do is develop and maintain a multi-threaded communications channel. Don't rely solely on email or voice messages. Meet weekly to go over activities, new initiatives and any other action items further down the pipeline – regular touchbases keep both partners on top of deliverables and goals. Talk regularly, even if it’s just a quick chat to go over a pitch angle or blog post theme. Try to connect face-to-face at least quarterly – an in-person, “meeting of the minds” ensures undivided attention from both partners and adds an element of collaboration that can’t always be achieved over the phone. Also, don't make every conversation about business. Get to know each other as people. Connecting on a personal level helps build understanding and deeper connections.
- Hear what each other is saying. This can be tricky. It's easy to talk about shared success, good news, etc. On the other hand, problems and bad news tend to get sugar-coated. Both parties need to agree to tell it like it is and be willing to really listen to what you are being told. Once you seriously consider all positions, you can generally work out a solution that everyone can get behind.
- Flexibility leads to durability. In every long-term successful client engagement I've experienced, flexibility by both parties has been a crucial factor. Inevitably there will be changes that must be dealt with along the course of a partnership. For the client it can be things like changes in company direction, strategy and funding. For the agency it can be things like team member promotions and departures. If you can accept that change is constant, then you will be much better prepared to deal with these developments, adapt and move on.
- Teamwork builds chemistry. Superstars and great teams typically possess something called "chemistry." For the most part, chemistry is largely an intangible thing. You can't measure it, but you know when you see it. I think the first step toward building chemistry is making a commitment to teamwork. That means taking initiative and being proactive to make other people's jobs and lives just a little bit better. Offering to go that small extra step by staying late to handle a request or do some extra research over the weekend should be appreciated and rewarded. Creating an environment in which this kind of effort is recognized establishes foundation on which chemistry can develop and thrive.
At the end of a day, we’ve all done our jobs when both the client and the agency are passionate about not only the story being told through PR, but appreciative of the day-to-day efforts by everyone on the team to achieve great results. Few things are better than achieving goals as a team and celebrating that success together. We see the benefits of this every day. Individual success is great, but when it’s a shared experience, it’s somehow sweeter.
What assets do you think are key in developing a great client-agency partnership?