Part 3 of the series Hiring a marketing agency: what you should expect (and what you shouldn’t)
What’s the right agency for you? You know it. How to nail your relationship with the agency? You know that too. Now, the next crucial step is to find an effective, consistent way to communicate.
The basis for a clear communication between two people/ organizations, both in personal and professional life, is an alignment of both their values and the metrics that measure them. And not only one of the two. Why? It’s not rocket science. Imagine: we are both keen to go out for lunch and we both value having a ‘good’ meal. But for you “good” means to have fried chicken and for me to have a kale salad. If we don’t clarify the meaning of ‘good’ before heading to lunch, then one of us will end up disappointed. So easy, yet so crucial.
For example, at Mowgli, our agency, we stand for authentic communication and smart working. If our clients don’t value transparency, ethical communication and authentic storytelling, how to align goals and results? The same goes for smart working: for us, happy team members are productive members. If our clients don’t believe in so as well, misunderstandings could likely arise.
Before starting any professional, and personal, relationship, ask yourself: what are my values? How do I measure them? Does the person in front of me do the same?
Make sure to clarify those points from the very beginning to ensure that your communication with the agency will be clear and fully understood. Once done that, you can start worrying about expectations management.
Client-agency communication: what to expect?
Like in any relationship, a good client-agency relationship is based on meeting expectations. So, how to manage expectations when it comes to client-agency communication?
The first way to manage expectations is to clarify availability because it’s also the one that has the highest potential to create tension. It’s hard to have a fixed rule, but the principle is fairly easy: the faster you will provide the agency with the information needed for the project, the quicker the agency will provide a service/ solution.
Response time too might vary depending on the business and the services needed. Once again, the key aspect is to be clear from the beginning: which time zones is the agency in? Can you consider the agency accountable for sticking to short response time? Ideally, communications should be fast, but it should never become annoying and invading personal space.
A second good practice to properly manage expectations is to agree on a contingency/crisis management plan. Especially on social media, communication is instantaneous: actions have to be taken one second from the other. The best example for this is the so-called – excuse the French – “social media shit storm,” when someone leaves a nasty comment and the snowball effect tragically turns into an avalanche on your client’s social profile. Without a contingency plan, the social media manager of the agency would have to instantly call you and decide on what to do with a phone call or an email. What if the other person is not available? Lots of time gets lost and much frustration produced. Instead, with an aligned plan agreed upon ahead, instant communication is not needed and no one ends up disappointed.
Communication for remote teams
Are you wondering if it’s a good idea to work with an agency that has a remote team? Do you think remote is not as efficient? Well, having a whole team in one office can be effective from a communication point of view: if I want to ask something to a colleague, I just stand up and go to his/her desk. There’s no need of Skype for meetings and everyone is on the same time-zone. It’s easier to organise team building and social activities. However, is that true? Is that really more efficient? For us at Mowgli is not secret: remote is better. First, it saves time. For example, think about the commute: if the employees are location independent, commute is not needed. Second, remote work is faster. With the help of the right tools and technologies, communication is quicker and more strategic: time is not lost in not-needed face-to-face meetings and everyone is on the same page. Also, remote work brings opportunities that having a whole company in one office cannot. And we have the best example here at Mowgli.
We were born in a coworking space in Bali, where professionals are constantly in contact with inspiring individuals from all over the globe. Remote teams live on those precious inputs coming from professionals outside the company and constantly bring in new ideas and perspectives. Moreover, remote work is objective based rather than hourly based. It gives more freedom to employees, hence more happiness…and more happiness usually means a job better done. Another advantage of having a team spread out across different time zones is that one of our collaborators is able to respond to your inquiries basically 24/7 within hours. If a your account manager or project manager is currently unavailable, the communication line is immediately transferred to the other most relevant person – be him/her an art director, a strategist or a social media manager, who have all the freedom and expertise they need to make decisions in urgent cases. We have found that being able to ensure you clients with almost instant response time is a key competitive advantage for us, an a major reason of our clients’ satisfaction.
However, with great freedom comes great responsibility. The responsibility of showing up at the office is replaced by the responsibility of holding yourself accountable towards the other colleagues, and towards the project itself. Remote work means to be more “altruistic”: we have to think before what your colleagues are supposed to do and not what you have to do. We have to work to make your team work easier and smoother. This requires very clear communication and project management skills. To sum up, some takeaways here on how to deal with a remote agency:
- Always keep in mind that your job affects other people job.
- Accountability, accountability, accountability.
- Keep communication essential and strategic: a message on slack tells more than a 1000-word email.
- Be aware of the time-zones!
It’s all about the client-agency communication tools
That’s right. We leave in the digital era and we are so lucky for that. Nowadays there are hundreds of tools and apps created to make our workflow and communication easier. And not only between teams, but also, and most of all, between clients and agencies.
There are different levels of how you can get engaged with an agency, and depending on those, you can be involved in the use of different communications tools.
The bottom level is to use Google Drive and the whole GSuite (google docs, google spreadsheets etc), great tool for sharing files, for comments and reviews. Praise Google for that!
- Low engagement. Keep it basic here: Skype for meetings and calls and email for official communications. Let’s never forget the power of a good email: it’s written, it stays, it’s proof! Emails are great for sending a proposal and an official contract, make sure to keep it short and concise.
- Medium engagement. If you are keen, why not asking the agency to create a Slack channel specifically for your project? Slack is great for organizing team communications according to the different areas and projects you are working on. Also, Slack offers different apps, including “standuply” for daily virtual standup meetings, “donuts” for team building and “kipwise” for content bank. Some people ask, what’s the difference with Whatsapp? Keep slack for work and Whatsapp for private life!
- High engagement. Well, If you are super keen, join Trello. Trello is an amazing web-based project management application. It looks like a board, where you can drag-drop post it and create a workflow for your projects. It helps visualizing what’s going on. Also, by uploading files and including links, Trello is a great archive for projects: here you can instantly find what you are looking for, instead of scrolling a 20-email-long thread.
Other great tools are:
- Calendly, to organize meetings and calendars through different time zones.
- Appear and Zoom, for video calls and meetings
Expectations, remote work and digital tools are three key aspects to manage when it comes to your communication with the agency. What we have explored so far are not strict rules and the main takeaway always comes down to one, which is common sense: adapt the way you communicate to the situation and the person you’ll be working with based on agreed-upon rules.