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Four Inconvenient Truths about your Agency

And Tips to Build an Effective Partnership


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russell weigandt

3 years ago | 2 min read

After a decade grinding on Fortune 500 brands, I swore off the agency world last year. Tap into my experiences to avoid some surprises and build a better agency partnership.

About that pitch team…

Remember that winning pitch team that was stacked with experienced senior executives? Yeah, that’s right, the one that promised to completely revamp your entire brand and double your sales numbers in the next 90 days.

Well, here’s the thing. They’re not really on your business.

As you may know, it is highly common, especially in large pitches, for agencies to pull out all the stops and tap the big hitters from across the network. Those executives tend to spend their time going to pitch meetings just like yours and then hand off the accounts to less experienced staff, who may not be on the same page.

Advice: Pick an agency team that pitches your business with a mix of seniority levels. It’s much more likely that what you see will actually be what you get.

Your honeymoon is temporary

The honeymoon onboarding period after the pitch is often full of feel-good camaraderie and fancy cocktail parties, but don’t expect that to last. Agencies today will likely start skimping on freebies and exercising tighter oversight of scope creep. Coronavirus challenges aside, they have faced financial pressures in recent years, as their clients have tightened their belts and tied pay to performance.

Also don’t expect the razzle-dazzle your CEO saw during the pitch to continue. And don’t be surprised if they say that extra service is going to cost you.

Advice: Make your expectations clear upfront. If you chose the agency because of their creative ideas, make that expectation known early and often.


Your agency team is only as good as you

You might have the most talented agency team in the entire world, but if you can’t clearly articulate what you want, they’re never going to deliver it.

Agency teams can be very good at reading the tea leaves and seeing around corners (I was one of them), but guessing games are doomed to failure. If you don’t know what you want, it’s better to nail that down before you hire an agency.

Advice: If you want good work that is on target, on time and within budget, make sure that you deliver a clear brief outlining every aspect of your expectations, from objectives to success metrics.

Indecisive, inefficient review cycles will kill your budget

Sadly, I’ve seen many teams burn through hundreds of thousands of dollars iterating on campaign plan decks that never went anywhere. I was shocked when the client would turn around at the end of the quarter and ask for results…To what? The ideas deck you never approved?

Review cycle churn and having too many cooks in the approvals kitchen are real problems. It’s nice to try to include all your colleagues in the process, and they probably have good ideas, but pulling them in midstream is a recipe for disaster.

Advice: Obtain internal alignment on the agency brief and have a clear list of decision makers at the outset of any project. This will help to avoid unnecessary revision cycles and prevent “helpful” feedback from onlookers.
This article was originally published by Russell weigandt on medium.

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russell weigandt

Russell Weigandt is a former senior vice president at top public relations agencies, where he managed corporate reputation for Fortune 500 and startup clients.


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