5 Tips to Get the Most From Your Content Agency
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Industry Leaders

5 Tips to Get the Most From Your Content Agency

by Josh RitchieJuly 27, 2016

Your content marketing is competing with a tidal wave of information crashing across the Internet. The pure amount of data generated daily is mind-boggling.

According to Domo, every minute, Internet users:

  • Upload 72 hours of video on YouTube.
  • Send 204 million messages via email.
  • Share 2.46 million pieces of content on Facebook.
  • Tweet 277,000 times on Twitter.
  • Pin 3,472 images on Pinterest.

To compete successfully in the content marketing landscape, you have to be relevant, thoughtful, engaging, and helpful. But you probably know that. The challenge is how to make great content with the resources available to you.

The days of pumping out content just to create something are over.

Producing enough engaging content is the only way to break through. Luckily, there are many tools, platforms, agencies, and freelancers available to solve that problem. Relying on these tools is necessary to develop and maintain a great content marketing operation. But the logistics can be challenging. What content do you DIY? Which tasks do you outsource? Above all, you want to know that you’re getting the best work from the people you choose. But keeping tabs on everyone isn’t easy.

For this reason, consolidating resources may be your best bet. This is where a content agency can alleviate some headaches. An agency can handle heavy lifting, offer much-needed perspective, and do more than your overtaxed marketing department can, which is great. But far too often there’s a disconnect in the handoff of materials and tasks. What should be a symbiotic relationship can deteriorate into two teams working parallel, not together. To avoid this dynamic, follow these 5 tips to get the best work and best value from your content agency.

Tip #1: Be ready to connect the content you wish to develop to your company vision, mission, and values.

There’s a lot of pressure to keep creating content, but it’s always worth spending the time to get your agency up to speed on key parts of your business, including your vision, mission, and values.

Your vision, mission, and values form your foundational thinking; let’s call these elements your True North. Use these cornerstone principles as the compass to help you create content.

Without understanding your True North, it’s easy to create and publish content that’s not authentic or reflective of your organization’s purpose and goals. Don’t miss the mark from the get-go.

Tip #2: Invest sufficient time for the discovery process.

Your goal is to create effective content—not just content.

Don’t make the mistake of just getting something done, without investing the time to make sure you’re doing things right. This attitude shortchanges both you and your agency.

As a result, the final work, whether it’s a project of full-blown campaign, will never be as successful as it could have been—because you didn’t invest the time to make sure everyone understood the objectives and, most importantly, the audience—who they are, what makes them tick, what problems they desperately need solved, etc.

How do you avoid this scenario? Allow time for a proper discovery process, and welcome questions from your agency to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

From an agency perspective, truly understanding why a brand is doing the work in question, how it connects to other things (including how success will be measured), and the target audience are keys to empowering people to do good work.

Tip #3: Communicate honestly and quickly.

Once you’ve decided to work with an agency, make sure all your stakeholders are involved at every stage, especially the kick-off. This will save you time and money in the long run.

This doesn’t mean your whole team needs to be on every email thread or call with your agency.

If there are three to five stakeholders, consider appointing one person to consolidate feedback and represent the company. By having one client representative, the agency can receive clear direction for the path forward.

Note, too, that while the relationship should be respectful, clear communication is valued above all. If you want your logo changed to teal, say so. Your agency doesn’t want to waste time beating around the bush; they want to focus on doing good work. It’s OK to be frank about what you don’t like; you can also be up front about what you like and what’s working well.

Timely communication is also key. When you agree to work with an agency on a timeline, it confirms that you and the agency are not only working on the project but are also committed to making that project a priority.

Tip #4: Trust your creative partners.

When you’re trusting, you’ll take more risks. You’ll push the envelope, and you’ll get better results. That said, trusting others can be scary, but it’s a necessary part of doing work that’s bigger and better than what you alone are capable of doing.

Over the last decade, I’ve learned that we do our best work when we can first serve as a sounding board for a client’s ideas, then help build on what a client already has in mind.

Sometimes it can be difficult to let go of managing every aspect of the creative process. (Trust me, I have micro-managerial tendencies.) But if you start working with a good agency, you shouldn’t have to. After all, that’s what you’re paying them to do—to think about your audience and objectives, and to do good work with you and for you.

Trusting your agency doesn’t mean you lose creative control; it means you get to properly assume the role of the client: approving things, making suggestions, or sending things back to the drawing board. The agency is there to make your life easier, not to double your workload.

Tip #5: Be flexible with the creative process.

On a project or campaign timeline, the creative process is sometimes assumed to be a linear thing, from the ideation stage to the production stage, with hard deadlines for each.

But sometimes, the creative process isn’t so straightforward. We often develop better ideas than what we originally started with, when we allow ourselves to go down creative rabbit holes—and have the time to do so.

That means the timeline that first made sense may be interrupted if new and better ideas are generated. Granted, sometimes you will have do-or-die deadlines for your work. But when you don’t, be willing to explore better ways of doing things. Allowing for flexibility and maintaining an open mind provides space for creative cultivation.

In fact, one of my agency’s biggest successes to date was the byproduct of a messy or “non-linear” creative process. When we initially started working with Microsoft, it was supposed to be to work on a series of infographics. However, once we started working on the engagement and did a little side research, we had a bit of a eureka moment. This led to the idea for what eventually became our viral ‘Child of the 90s video for Internet Explorer (check it out below). This video went on to receive roughly 50 million views, tons of press mentions, and several award nominations. The reason we were able to do this type of work with Microsoft? Our client had an open mind and was open to changing course when a better idea surfaced.

Child of the 90s | Internet Explorer by internetexplorer

If you and your agency can agree to have the flexibility to have an open and free dialogue throughout the creative process, your agency will love you (and go above and beyond for you). And when your agency loves you, chances are, you’ll enjoy working with them more and the work will be better.

 

This article was written by Josh Ritchie, CEO + Co-founder of Column Five, a content agency based in Orange County, California, and Brooklyn, New York.