Learning to work effectively with your creative agency is a process. Great work comes from great relationships, but you can’t cultivate that rapport until you have some projects under your belt. And getting those projects done usually depends on the right distribution of workload and duties.
But many marketers don’t know how to divvy the work up the right way. When kicking off with a creative agency, they tend to fall into one of these camps:
- They’re too overwhelmed and tired (hence they’ve called in much-needed reinforcements), so they don’t want to do any work at all, leaving the agency to “figure it out” on their own.
- They’re so used to managing their stuff that they find it hard relinquish control and become prone to micromanagement.
- They don’t know how best to use their creative agency, so they take a laissez faire approach and let the agency guide the discussion.
All three of these dynamics can result in one (if not both) parties feeling frustrated, left out, or resentful. To avoid this, you need to find a happy medium.
A Creative Agency’s Role
The key to crafting a fair and balanced work relationship is communicating your needs up front. A good agency is a partner and a natural extension for your team. They may forge a path and guide you, or they may be behind you, supporting you every step of the way. They can provide whatever you need, but it’s on you to express those needs.
When you think about the distribution of workload, you can look at it in terms of three roles your creative agency might play for you: steering, sharing, and supporting.
Steering: This type of dynamic means you pretty much need to rely on the agency to guide you. You might need a new strategy, a cohesive campaign, or a major rebranding. These are the types of projects that, while collaborative, require your agency to take the lead and shape the engagement.
Sharing: In this dynamic, you have a pretty evenly distributed workload. It may be the most collaborative, where you equally participate in strategy, brainstorming, or gathering research for a project.
Supporting: A supporting role works when you already have your vision and goals but need someone to help you execute. This is most common when you’re outsourcing parts of your content creation to an agency.
Articulating these dynamics will help your relationship so that no one feels dominated or dismissed. However, while it’s important to maintain clear communication about roles and responsibilities, remember that your agency is still a partner, not a gun for hire. Both sides should still interact with respect, clear communication, and an openness to feedback.
How to Divvy Up the Workload
If you’re unsure of how to best lean on your creative agency, a few simple questions can help give you some clarity about where you might need some help, where you might be dropping the ball, or where the gaps in your marketing machine are. Consider:
- What do you hate doing? If you’re struggling in a certain area or constantly dreading a certain task, having your creative agency handle it might free you up to focus on stuff you enjoy or are better at.
- What isn’t working? If you’ve tried and tried but you’re just not making headway, an extra set of eyes can help you find better solutions.
- What would you do if you knew how to? We all have grand ideas, but sometimes we’re limited in our ability to execute.
It also helps to look at areas where most content marketing challenges stem from: budget, knowledge, time and energy, skills, and infrastructure. (One of these is probably the reason you sought a creative agency in the first place.)
- Budget: Are you able to experiment? Are you running lean and need only the most surefire content? Depending on your goals, you may want to invest in a longer-term partnership on a campaign, which means you may give your agency more responsibility and free reign on project strategy and creative work.
- Knowledge: If you have more knowledge about the subject at hand, you may want to oversee a project or use your agency to provide extra support to execute your vision. Conversely, if they’re experts in a certain area, letting them guide the project (and teach you along the way) can be a beneficial learning experience.
- Time and energy: Most marketers are strapped for resources, but these intangibles are often the biggest benefit of having an agency on your side. Struggling with ideas? Can’t maintain publishing volume? They can solve problems for you.
- Skills: All work requires some degree of expertise, but specialized creative work really requires expertise. If you want to explore an entirely new medium, such as video or interactives, you absolutely need a pro to take the reigns.
- Infrastructure: Many marketers struggle to create, publish, and promote content consistently—for one reason or another. Whoever has the stronger system to get stuff done should probably take it on.
Remember That You Own Your Brand
At the end of the day, your brand is your own. But being open to collaboration and outside perspectives will help you grow a strong, healthy brand. The goal of any creative partnership is to create the best work possible, so no matter how you split the work, keep that goal front of mind.