In this section: Honesty and Openness, in the lastest episode in the ongoing series from a long-time agency insider. This series explores how to wrest the most out of every dollar and minute that you spend with an agency. Marketing, branding, digital, creative, PR, SEO; all agencies have their differences, but they all have their commonalities, too. This series addresses questions that our clients have asked over the years...and those they haven't thought to ask, too.HONESTY AND OPENNESS
I am always amazed that anyone would go to the effort, expense, and take the risk of hiring an agency, then fail to give them a full and comprehensive brief on all of the important aspects of their business. I used to take this personally, until I realized that, as in any relationship, there are almost always some things that, for whatever reason, people reveal only reluctantly.
And I finally understood (duh!) that it’s highly likely that not everyone realizes what a freshly engaged agency is going to need to know. It’s why we generally start every engagement with a lot of questions. But even with that, being proactively forthcoming with your agency is only going to have positive results.
So, with that thought, here is a list of the range of elements your agency is going to need to know to do an effective job for you and do it in a timely manner:
- Brand Guideline(s)
It is critical to evaluation, yet not every company has a documented brand styleguide. Those that don’t usually have some kind of examples of how they want their brand to be used (and not used). This includes the color palette, fonts, unacceptable uses (e.g. reversed, stretched, etc.), placements, and other graphic elements. This also covers the written style, although fewer companies have this documented, almost every company has a preferred style for their written materials.
- Comprehensive details on brand or product
Whether you’ve hired an agency to work on your brand (creating one or tuning, expanding, or refreshing an existing one) or help launch something new (a new product, service, division, etc.), a comprehensive brief will save a lot of time and, potentially, heartache during the engagement.
“Comprehensive” here, meaning both all the good and the bad—all the strong points about the company/product/service and all the weak points, too. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which are to protect your integrity and the integrity of the agency, but also because with this information your agency can help you position the benefits and drawbacks to present as positive a picture as can reasonably be crafted.
Few products, companies, or divisions are perfect right out the chute and even those that are extensively well thought out and planned…well…there’s that old saying about no battle plan lasting beyond the first encounter with the enemy. Not hiding problems means you have another dedicated partner helping you find solid workarounds.
- Political issues
Every company has its politics. A wise person once said that once you put more than three people in a room it’s political.
One of the reasons you hire an agency is because of the value that an intelligent outsider’s perspective can offer. As outsiders it’s almost impossible for an agency to understand the political landscape of your company rapidly and accurately. That landscape can have a major affect on the job that an agency ends up doing for you, it makes sense to let them in on the political situation in your company before they get too far along their creative cycle.
I have seen internal company politics decimate creative jobs—both from inside the job (when it was my agency) and from outside (seen it happen to other agencies). It’s never pretty. And it’s almost always avoidable, with some proactive and open communication.
As with every relationship, it takes both parties to have things work out well. From the agency perspective we need to ensure that we’re asking all the right questions. From the client side, open and proactive communication will save a ton of time and help your project go smoothly, rapidly, and have the highest quality output possible.
This blog series is also available, complete, as an e-book: How To Get The Most From Your Agency
Please, give me e-book now!