I’m in a relatively unique position as I have worked on both sides of this question. I spent a number of years within some major organisations selecting and working with PR and marketing agencies and I’ve also worked on the agency side, delivering a range of campaigns and strategies for international organisations.
There have been some great successes and, unfortunately, there have been some mistakes. The key factor in success or failure has undoubtedly been down to the level of collaboration between the client and the agency.
If both parties are engaged, both believe in the journey, both understand their roles and, critically, both are equally committed to the strategy, success is all but guaranteed. However, if one of the parties involved aren’t collaborating effectively, delivering the strategy can become an onerous and challenging task for the other and it will struggle to hit the desired objectives.
A PR and marketing agency can be truly transformative for an agribusinesses’ fortunes, but they cannot do it alone. Getting the most from an agency involves commitment, dedication and collaboration.
This doesn’t mean you have to pick up 50% of the work, an agency can drive your PR and marketing functions alone if necessary, but you must first work together to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities, agree objectives and what each must do to enable the other to deliver success.
So, what does effective collaboration with a PR and marketing agency look like? What must agribusiness leaders do to get the most from their agency? And, how best do agribusinesses and PR and marketing agencies work together to deliver success?
In this blog I share some of my top tips for collaboration, setting out the key steps and also highlighting some of the common pitfalls.
A good agency will transform your PR and marketing activity and will offer a level of experience and expertise that’s impossible to create in-house. They will generate a range of creative solutions for growing your brand. However, it’s important you have some clear objectives from the outset.
Make sure you know what you want your marketing to achieve before bringing in the agency. By having a simple objective to begin the conversation, it makes it far easier to build a collaborative partnership from that point.
An agency can then collaborate with you on a strategy to achieve that goal and develop some creative and effective solutions to not only raise awareness of your agribusiness but also improve the sales funnel and, ultimately, your profits.
In my experience on the client side, a good agency will enter into this consultative and collaborative process and develop some creative strategies for you to consider before you commit to working with each other.
It’s OK to meet, discuss ideas and ask for a proposal and costings before you sign a contract. I add this warning as I’ve personally experienced an agency asking for £5,000 up front just to come back with some ideas. They had worked with the company many times before and said that was the way they’d always operated.
As a tight Yorkshireman I politely declined their kind offer and, unsurprisingly, they still came back with a proposal a short time later. However, despite me setting out a clear objective for the project, they didn’t use a collaborative approach and the pitch was way off the mark. I went with another agency that worked with me to understand what I was trying to achieve and who the audience was.
Trust is a really important part of an effective collaboration between an agribusiness and a marketing agency, and that trust has to take many forms.
For the agribusiness, that trust can be a bit of a leap of faith. For many, it could be the first time they relinquish some control in promoting the business they have worked so hard to create but it is important to trust in the expertise of your chosen agency. They are specialists and will be able to take your marketing activity to another level – giving them the freedom to do what they do best will help to ensure your goals are achieved.
Agribusinesses must also trust that the agency can deliver what’s promised, provide the training and support you need to help fulfil marketing goals and they must also trust the agency to access their communications channels.
Most importantly, an agribusiness leader must trust in the agency’s strategy and creative ideas. If the initial collaborative sessions have gone well, everyone should be on board and trust in the vision for the campaign.
For the agency, they also have to trust you to provide what they need to deliver the campaign, trust that what you provide is accurate and, most importantly, trust that you can deliver, whether that’s to the customer, to the media or what is needed at an event or exhibition.
Contracts can be a great way to set out exactly what is expected of each other and help ensure that both parties can trust each other to deliver.
This is ultimately about both the agribusiness and the agency both being on the same page and believing in the journey that lies ahead.
With clear goals and a new partnership built on trust, the next step is to create a timeline for all of the activity, so everyone has clear expectations of what to expect and when.
By developing a clear timeline, both the agency and the client will have a simple way of knowing what is being delivered at each stage of the campaign and, also, what will be needed to deliver it.
This is something that can often be overlooked but developing clear expectations for each stage of the campaign ensures the collaboration can be seamless. If no one is quite sure what the expectations are, it can corrosive to the campaign and the relationship.
At Red Stag Media, we create a Gantt chart at the start of every collaboration with a client, so we have a concrete map of exactly what is happening over the duration of the campaign. This ensures the client knows exactly what to expect, can see clear costings and can also measure our performance throughout the campaign.
This level of transparency ensures we can build trusted and collaborative relationships that help to deliver impactful campaigns for clients.
With clear expectations for each stage of the marketing campaign, the next step is to ensure you have named individuals who are responsible for delivering each component, whether that’s in the agency or the agribusiness.
For the agency, they will probably have a named individual managing the account and the relationship with you directly and they will be able to provide the names responsible for each element of the marketing campaign.
Make sure you know from them who needs to be spoken to about each stage of the campaign, but the account manager can also act as the key contact throughout and should be able to provide regular updates against the set expectations.
For the agribusiness, communication channels should be clear and simple. Who will be the main point of contact, who will be responsible for approving content and who should be kept up to date on progress?
By developing clear criteria at the outset, agency activity should be swift and seamless and everyone in the agribusiness will be kept up to date and connected to the progress of the campaign.
All too often, marketing campaigns fall behind schedule because the client has failed to approve content in time or because they haven’t provided the necessary resources.
By setting out these clear responsibilities and communication channels from the start, it can prevent any delays or break downs in collaboration.
If you’ve got all the above elements right, you should have a seamless collaboration and your marketing campaign should be running smoothly.
However, now is not the time to sit back and wait for the leads to come in. Now is the time to analyse the campaign, measure its impact and refine your approach if necessary.
Measurement in some PR and marketing activity can be difficult as it’s challenging to establish a clear link to that activity and the end result. But, as you set out clear goals at the beginning, you should be able to use these to benchmark the performance of the PR and marketing campaign and see if it is delivering against those objectives.
Your agency should be able to provide you with a range of key metrics from website and social media data, through to leads moving through a sales funnel and on to wider things like key pieces of media coverage.
You should be able to provide insights into enquiries and sales or responses at exhibitions and shows etc.
Only by collaborating on the data you are both collecting will you be able to truly measure the full impact of the PR and marketing activity. Ideally, it should be going well and you can carry on with the strategy.
However, bear in mind that marketing campaigns can be influenced by a wealth of external factors and don’t always land in the way you intended. If this is the case, analyse the results together, understand what isn’t working and adapt the strategy to make sure you continue to work to those original objectives.
By working together, both parties develop a deeper understanding of not only the campaign, but the customer too and that only helps to sharpen future marketing activity and strengthen the collaboration too.
As a client, I’ve worked with agencies that have transformed my marketing campaigns. They have been able to bring a level of support and niche expertise that is almost impossible to build in-house. Even the biggest organisations with large marketing and communications teams still bring in agency support purely for this reason.
If you collaborate closely with the right agency and work together on a campaign with clear objectives, it will take your business to the next level. But this collaboration is key. Too often, clients will contact an agency, say ‘we want to go viral’ and then sit back and expect the agency to do it all on their own. This approach will fail.
A good agency will want to work closely with you. They’ll want to understand what you do in detail, understand the ethos of your brand, believe in your ambitions and, most importantly, they’ll want to understand your ideal customer. Only then can they really start to build a PR and marketing strategy that will transform your business.
If agribusiness leaders and PR and marketing agencies successfully collaborate, deliver what is expected and both work together to measure the impact of a campaign, great things can happen.
As always, if you have any questions or want to understand how collaboration can transform marketing campaigns, get in touch with me at email@example.com,uk