In movies, working with agencies (as well as within them) looks like a dream; the client sets the brief and after a week or two you’re showing a crazy presentation, their sales skyrocket, everyone is happy, and you all drink champagne on yachts. In reality, managers don’t look like Hollywood stars and it’s not all smooth sailing.
However, the power lies in the approach. We’ve collected some universal tips to make your work with contractors and agencies pleasant and productive, so that the mention of a manager won’t cause a nervous tic.
Discuss Responsibility and Specific Requirements
Conflicts often arise due to the fact that, in the beginning, both parties fail to discuss who is who, what they do, what the tasks are, and what the parties expect from each other. For example, it would be a nasty surprise for the client if the agency didn’t provide the drafts, and the agency’s project manager might struggle without a proper introduction to the material.
The main issues are dealt with in the contract. However, things such as the type of report, time and form of communication, specific tasks and wishes—it’s far better for them to be discussed and registered at the start. Has there already been a conflict with previous agencies? This can also be worth talking about.
Set the Tone—Choose the Style of Working That Suits You Best
Some prefer to give direction and rely entirely on creativity, while others need to control every step. It’s better to discuss which style is most natural to you before you start, so that the agency has time to adapt to you. If the work is also controlled by the international head office, then it’s crucial to immediately discuss its criteria, restrictions, norms, rules and terms.
Remember that you are the face of the brand you represent. And it depends on you how the agency will treat the company. Therefore, be adequate and do not forget that you are communicating with the same people.
Don’t Guess, Stay in Touch
Most of the communication problems between a customer and the contractor arise when there’s a misunderstanding. Letters and messages do not convey emotions; someone can be enraged by an SMS with dots at the end, and someone else—the presence or absence of an emoji. The best way to avoid all of this is to meet or call regularly, so you can clearly indicate the frequency of reports and know when to expect results.
Meetings are time-consuming for both parties, so prepare for them as much as possible. Write down all the issues you want to discuss in advance. Be honest with the agency and speak up right away if something is not pleasant or embarrassing. Even if you are talking about a manager who works with you, this will help stop problems from accumulating and reduce unjustified expectations to a minimum.
Participate in Internal Meetings
At first, it might seem like demons are being summoned right next to you: guidelines, brand books, creative approval, and so on and so forth. But, if you’ve been invited to brainstorm, don’t refuse. On the one hand, you will better understand what is generally going on in the minds of crazed digital people, and on the other, you will play the role of a consultant and give useful advice.
No one knows the product and its audience better than you do, and this will help turn the work in the right direction. Now it’s possible to avoid a situation where someone has conveyed the wrong information, and avoid future misunderstandings. Save time and avoid unnecessary edits.
Record All Agreements
Did you phone and meet? Excellent! It’s best practise to confirm and record everything. Agree on the format in which everything will be recorded. The best option is to send and receive all the agreed information by email as this is the method of approval that is most often outlined in the contract.
For convenience, discuss how you will label the subject lines and file names, and where you will communicate and store all the documents. Respond in specific threads on a specific topic, and do not interfere with all messages in one lump text—use replies.
Work As a Team
An agency is powered by people, it’s not a wishing well. They have experience and observation. Therefore, learn to listen to their opinion and argue your position. Constructive criticism is very good. If you don’t like an idea, tell them what you would like to improve or in which direction to direct the flow of thoughts. Imagine if you were told: “Everything is bad, redo it”—how would you do it? Both parties are interested in efficient and high-quality problem-solving.
Speak the Same Language
If you have a new idea, don’t rush to the phone and dump it on the agency manager with the phrase “Monica, we have a great idea, take a pen and write it down.”. Get together with your team and first rationalise the idea yourselves so that it sounds clear, understandable and logical to other people. If necessary, add pictures, videos and any other examples that will help. And try to avoid specific terminology and internal slang: the chances that you will be understood are close to zero.
It is normal if the customer doesn’t know every advertising term and all the industry nuances. Therefore, to make it easier for you to understand the causal relationship of the agency’s proposals, you can arrange for an introductory lecture for your marketing team and a list of terms with human definitions.
1. Key decisions. The main enemy of productive work is miscommunication. To avoid misunderstandings, we determine at the beginning who will make the main decisions on behalf of the client. This person can transmit the wishes of the team and make edits. From our side, the project manager is appointed as responsible.
2. Working with edits. We prepare all the content in advance and put in corrections from one to three working days. We wait for feedback so we can better understand the brand and learn how to avoid too many edits in the future. Experience shows that in the first three edits, all issues can be resolved. If no comments are received within three working days, we consider that the work has been accepted.
3. Prioritise Introductory Information. We are for teamwork, so we ask our clients to provide all information on time, from logos to guidelines.
4. Resolving Issues. We discuss all questions in the corporate email chain. This is very convenient as the dialogue is available to everyone and the information is not lost. If the manager communicates with the customer by phone or in a messenger, then he writes down all the main points and sends them to the client by email.
5. Force majeure. We, like most office employees, work on weekdays from 09:00 to 18:00, but we understand that sometimes unplanned situations arise. If the issue really cannot be closed during business hours, the team tries to help the client as quickly as possible. However, this is an exception, not a rule. Our employees like to spend their free time with family, friends or outside the city—and we do not want to deprive them of this pleasure.
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