How to match what the client wants with what the agency delivers

Whilst scrolling through LinkedIn in the dead of night, a rather interesting post caught my eye. One of my acquaintances had shared the below photo with the caption ‘client brief vs client budget’. After noticing the photo, a wry smile crossed my face, but a few seconds later I realised how dangerous, decisive and potentially, destructive this piece was because, aside from the snigger factor, it’s not helpful.

No joke

There is often an imbalance between a client brief and a client budget, but instead of laughing about the problem, we should strive to work with it. On the flipside, I’m sure there are plenty of clients that receive huge, glamourous promises from agencies and then the work those agencies deliver is somewhat lacking. As a result, there develops a lack of trust and teamwork, which stunts productivity and causes a problematic relationship between the agency and client.

There are ways that a client and agency can work together to be sure there is never this gulf of expectation and delivery. But what are they? And how can we ensure that both agencies and clients can work together rather than apart?

How to get the campaign you dream of

Here are my five top tips to be sure this rift never happens:

1. Be straight from the get-go
There’s nothing worse than being half way through a campaign, only for someone to flag that their objectives are not being met and that everyone has their wires crossed. When planning your brief, be clear on your expectations and goals. Set out clear objectives and communicate this to your potential agency partner.

If you work in comms, communicating your objectives should not be difficult. In a recent article from PR Moment, we’re shown 13 rather hilarious PR briefs and although they’re a good read, it’s important to understand that these briefs will not be helpful for the agency and won’t get you the results you need. So, I urge you to communicate your expectations in the brief clearly, it will ensure that everyone is on the same page and your working relationship gets off on the right foot.

2. Don’t be quiet about the budget

The PR agencies that are pitching to you will need an indication of budget in order to tailor ideas appropriately. Setting a solid budget will prevent any ambiguity around PR activity and will allow you to get a flavour of what you can get for your money. Having a budget with an optional ‘extra’ will allow agencies to be creative, but also set realistic standards on what you can expect. This will ensure that you know what you’re getting from the agency immediately and will prevent them from failing to deliver and not meeting your expectations.

3. Constant communication

It’s great that you made your expectations clear from the start of the relationship, but don’t let it slide. Keep talking with your agency partner and ensure that they’re providing results and measuring them in the way you want. In your brief, outline what you expect. This will help the agency steer how they respond to your brief and will ensure that both parties know what they’re getting.

Including an ‘approach to reporting’ section in your brief will highlight to the agency that internal communication is a key part of your comms strategy. Agencies can them recommend the most beneficial tools like WIPs (Work in Progress reports), regular phone calls or even platforms such as Slack and Basecamp, to ensure that communication between the client and agency remains clear and constant.

4. Measure, measure, measure
Outlining what you expect in terms of measurement and what success looks like to your business will help the agency focus on what to prioritise. At the end of the day, the agency needs to work out what activities to assign budget to. Having a clear indication of what is important to your business, will allow them to determine this.

Similarly, it’s good to listen to the agency’s advice, there’s a reason you’re hiring them. So, if they suggest some amendments to the KPIs or moving around some activity, don’t just ignore them. Have a conversation with them and discuss all of your options. It’s better to communicate your feelings and establish mutual trust than to work in a hostile environment.

Most agencies will recommend a measurement tool depending on the activity you require, so be open and honest about what success looks like to you, and the agency will adapt what they put forward depending on your requirements. This not only saves you time, but it ensures that the agency is aligned with your expectations and that they won’t over promise and under deliver.

5. It’s a two-way street

When establishing a partnership between yourself and an agency, think about it as a two-way street and that there needs to be a bit of give and take. The agency will work hard to deliver on your objectives, but they also will require some support from you. Access to stakeholders, relatively quick approval times and feedback are all processes that an agency needs from you, so make sure that you try to make those areas as easy and as streamlined as possible. This will allow the agency to get on with their job and get you results, whilst making your life easier in the long run.

Take the time to create an informative and thoughtful brief that provides a clear structure on what your business needs are and what you’re looking for in an agency. If you get the first part right, the rest will fall in line, and you’ll hire an agency that not only delivers your outcomes but strives to go above and beyond for you.

Article written by Claire Walker, founder and CEO of Firefly Communications