How to Build a Productive Relationship With Your Creative Agency

by Katy French

We’ve talked about what you should look for in a creative agency and why it’s important to build a strong relationship with your agency, but how exactly do you build that relationship?

Finding the right team to work with is one thing, but working with the people behind the portfolio is a whole different experience. It takes time to build that relationship, and you can’t force it. But there are some things you can do to metaphorically fast-track the friendship.

How to Work with a Creative Agency

We’ve worked with plenty of brands and created thousands of projects, and each has been a unique experience. What we’ve learned the good way (and the really hard way) is that it’s not just about the work. What really makes a difference is approaching the work with a sense of collaboration and respect, and letting that show in every aspect of interaction between you and your creative agency.

Hence, we thought we’d share some of our best tips to facilitate that. If you’re starting a new engagement with an agency, here are 5 simple ways you can talk, learn, and grow together.

1) Assume Nothing

Every working relationship is different, but it’s important to approach it with an open mind and a blank slate. Your creative agency will approach your project the same way. You are both building from the ground up (in terms of content and your relationship), so ask questions, clarify issues, and work to learn from each other. Remember: A good creative relationship is balanced and collaborative. Neither side should be dictating or issuing ultimatums.

  • Start with the basics. Here are 7 great questions to ask before you start your engagement.
  • Ask about their creative philosophy. It’s important to understand your agency’s approach to the work they do. This will give you insight into how they ideate and problem solve.
  • Find out about known roadblocks. This is a proactive way to address issues and keep teams aligned along the way.

2) Talk About How You Prefer to Communicate

Everyone knows you need to communicate—duh. But what we often forget is that we all communicate differently. Maybe you get annoyed with someone’s over-questioning. Maybe you get frustrated with a lack of info. Maybe you’re an email-only person working with a caller. These little details can cause minute frustrations that can affect overall communication.

Address these issues up top so that everyone knows the expectations on both sides and no one is caught off guard. For example, some agencies kick off by letting clients know they won’t communicate outside of standard business hours.

3) Dive into Each Other’s Brands

In some ways you know each other’s brands because you’ve read creative briefs or mission statements. But a brand is the composite of many things. It’s the people behind the brand, the work they do, the way they speak, the values they hold. To get a sense of this, invest some time in getting to know the brand up close and personal. 

  • Learn about their culture. This will also give you a sense of who you’re working with. (For example, we like to let people into our world by sharing behind-the-scenes looks at our office, as well as our team’s best tips for bonding and creativity.)
  • Follow them on social. Do they share lots of tips on Twitter? Goof off on Instagram? These are all great places to keep up with their team and their work.
  • Explore their site. You surely explored their portfolio, but they may have a lot more interesting stuff on their blog.
  • Subscribe to their newsletter or email marketing. Seeing what they’re working on might inspire an idea for your own brand.

4) Celebrate Good Work

No one likes being treated like a gun for hire. That’s why approaching creative work as a transactional relationship, with little acknowledgement of each other’s talents and contributions, does nothing but weaken your relationship.

We’ve experienced this first-hand, which is why we’re adamant about recognizing good work—no matter whose it is. If a partner found a great piece of music for a video, we cheers to it. If we knocked out a slick animation under a time crunch, we appreciate a pat on the back. That doesn’t mean either side is needy, but it is an expression of our commitment to each other.

5) Stay In Touch

Just because your project may be done doesn’t mean you won’t work together again. A good creative content agency is always thinking about how to help their clients succeed, so keeping open lines of communication is always beneficial.

A brand may share some inspiring piece of work with an agency. An agency might send over an interesting article about something in a brand’s industry. (We still trade GIFS and inside jokes with clients we haven’t worked with for a while. Even though we may not be collaborating right now, it helps us maintain our camaraderie.) This symbiotic relationship keeps the wheels turning on both sides, and that only helps create better content in the long run.

If you want a few more tips on creating more effective marketing, with or without an agency, you can learn more about how to: 

And if you think you need a little help, let’s talk about it.  

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