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We’ve talked about what you should look for in a creative content agency and why it’s important to build a strong relationship with a content 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 Content Agency

We’ve worked with plenty of brands and created thousands of projects—each a unique experience. What we’ve learned the good and really hard way is that it’s not just about the obvious hallmarks of a great relationship (communicate! offer constructive feedback!). What really makes a difference is approaching it with a sense of collaboration and respect, and letting that show in every aspect of interaction. To help you foster better relationships and, most importantly, do better work with your creative content agency, here are some of our best tips to help you 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 content 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.

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 kickoff by letting clients know they won’t communicate outside of standard business hours. To get an even better understanding of your creative partners, find out how to work with the 4 different types of creative thinkers. (Seriously, it might completely change the way you interact with people.)

3) Dive into Each Other’s Brands

In some ways you know each other’s brands because you’ve read briefs or a company mission statement. 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. That means following the brand (or agency) on social, subscribing to the newsletter, digging into the website. This gives you a sense of who you’re really working with and how you can work better together.

4) Acknowledge 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.