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How to work with an agency

Working with an agency can be a huge decision for a business. Whether it’s because you’re a small team and need to delegate tasks, you have need for a particular skill set, or you just want some additional creative firepower, working with an agency can be a great way of grabbing your audience’s attention. If you’ve decided to work with an agency (and hopefully ours!) what do you need to know before engaging with them? Here are our five tips for before you have those conversations.

Know what you want

It’s always an awkward conversation to talk about money, but it shouldn’t be. Finances aren’t highlighted early on to carve out an agency’s fee, they’re discussed to understand what might be feasible for a project activation. Should we rule out that billboard in Times Square, are we looking at local media targets, or should we look to recruit a Hollywood A-lister?

Agencies will have experience of working with startups and with huge multinational corporations, each of which will have dramatically different marketing budgets and audience sizes. The agency knowing your budgets doesn’t limit creativity or increase your bill, it keeps the solutions realistic.

Equally important is knowing how you want to brief your agency - what do you want to achieve? In some cases you might want to increase the visibility of a product or service, in others you might want to reach a new market or build excitement around something new. The tactics for these executions will all be slightly different.

An agency will always try to come up with the most creative and attention-grabbing idea that they can - that bold approach may or may not be right for you. Having these discussions early helps us develop something that fits your project, and gives you the end result you’re looking for.

The more information you can provide, the more likely they are to come up with a solution that genuinely helps your business.

Ask (and answer) lots of questions

Arguably the biggest advantage of working with an agency is that you can draw on their experience in your sector, or in best practise across others. Your agency will have a broad understanding, but only you will have the details of how your business differs from your competition, and what makes your product special.

At an early stage it is important for everyone to ask a lot of questions, and know that there’s no such thing as a silly one. Being clear on key messages, differentiators and ways of working helps you understand how to manage your agency relationship, and helps your agency understand exactly what (and how) you do. 

Make sure any prospective agency you work with asks plenty of you too. A good agency will want to know seemingly innocuous details so they can better understand how best to tell your story.

Set aside more time at the start

Agencies are usually very good at turning around excellent projects in challenging timeframes, but this can limit the possibilities for a campaign. The more time you can give to an agency to fully understand your project and your business, the higher quality and more developed their ideas are likely to be.

Wherever possible, we try to recommend as extensive an onboarding process as is feasible. The more time an agency spends with your people and in your culture, the more they’ll get an idea of what separates you from your competitors, and what it is about your organisation that will be of interest to the media. The more time spent early on, the better the execution will be a little further down the road.

This isn’t always possible, and sometimes the best ideas come from a little urgency, but the more exposure an agency has to your business, the more they’ll understand it.

Share what’s going on

It’s amazing which parts of your job can be turned into stories, either for media or for your social channels. New job opportunities can be business stories about investment in skills, new product development could be a trade media exclusive, even the processes that you follow to create your products could become winning Instagram content.

The more background your agency gets on what is happening in your business, the more potential there is to turn these events into exposure for your products or services. This obviously requires trust, but that’s what we want to build.

Ask “what else can you do?”

Agencies work with a multitude of partners and with a number of other businesses. No two clients will receive the same services. This means that agency teams have exposure to a huge range of skills and additional creative opportunities.

If you’re working with an agency on media relations support, be sure to ask what else they have been doing. Most agencies will have a range of in-house skills you may never know they had, from film production to animation to event management. At SPEY we’ve coordinated everything for clients from fly poster campaigns, celebration dinners and business cards to chartering planes and multilingual translations.

If you’ve got a good working relationship with your agency, tell them about the challenges you are facing and they’ll likely present a solution.

Sometimes you only need to ask.

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