Agency Partnership

8 Tips To Help You Kick Off Work with a New Agency

By Starr Million Baker

Partnering with a new communications agency is an opportunity to bring in fresh perspectives and expedite strategic initiatives. To get the most value out of this relationship, it’s crucial to establish a solid footing early on. 

A successful partnership hinges on more than initial agreements — it requires deep collaboration and alignment right from the start, ensuring both teams are ready to act. 

Here are eight tips for onboarding a new communications agency to help you hit the ground running:

Work From a Clear and Comprehensive RFP

After choosing your agency and before a kick-off meeting, revisit your original RFP and the winning proposal. A lot can change within a business during the agency selection process, so look for areas where information is missing or expectations are outdated. Then, fill in your agency on any updates to ensure they come prepared to ask smart follow up questions and share revised recommendations.

Structure the Kick-off Meeting for Brainstorming

The first official meeting with your new agency should be used for more than strategic goal setting – it’s a key moment for establishing trust, building personal connections, and setting the tone for the entire partnership.  

Instead of a standard call, kick off your work together with a half-day brainstorm. Think of this as a chance to get acquainted, experience each other’s thought process, and get your feet wet uncovering creative ideas together to fuel your program. 

On your end, make sure all stakeholders who will touch the program attend the meeting, either physically or on a call. In our experience, kick-off syncs are most rewarding when they are done in person, but that’s not always possible with today’s hybrid work structure.

If you choose to have a virtual meeting, use a videoconferencing platform and encourage your team to keep their cameras on. This fosters more engagement and helps put names to faces.

Share Essential Information

Before, during, and after the first meeting, share any background information or existing company assets that might inform or impact your agency’s program. The more you provide upfront, the faster your new agency partner will be able to get up to speed and start delivering results. 

Some key assets and information to provide include:  

  • Brand positioning and guidelines 
  • Competitive analysis 
  • Audience research 
  • Previous program KPIs and reports
  • Corporate strategy presentations 
  • Recent marketing materials
  • Sales presentations
  • Organizational structure
  • Relevant internal challenges and roadblocks 
  • Any other ‘softer’ information that could impact your agency’s work 

Set Clear Expectations

Transparency is key in all aspects of an agency partnership, especially when it comes to setting expectations. This is true for both sides – it’s a reciprocal relationship. Be direct about what you expect out of the partnership and ensure you give your agency the opportunity to share their expectations too. Skipping this step can lead to misaligned programs that fail to meet the goals of both parties. 

The solution? Talk about it — all of it. Here are a few things you’ll want to cover with your agency team:  

  • Your leadership’s expectations
  • Your own personal and professional goals for the work
  • How crisis situations will be handled
  • Routes to take if support outside of the normal scope is needed (and alternatively, if a program needs to be scaled back) 

Overall, be clear and accountable for what each of you expect out of each other (and the program), potential roadblocks the agency might encounter, and how you’ll navigate around those roadblocks together. 

Solidify Measurements Before Execution

This goes hand-in-hand with expectation setting. Executing a program — or even a single campaign — without a clearly defined method for measuring impact and ROI is a recipe for disaster. Before planning and implementing your strategy, identify the KPIs you’ll use to measure the program’s success and how they tie back to your company’s greater business goals. 

By aligning on measurement from the start and helping your agency gain a deeper understanding of your business goals, they can tailor their strategies to meet those goals. In the end, success isn’t just about beating last year’s numbers. Success in measurement is also consistently analyzing program performance and pivoting if something isn’t working to ensure the best possible results.

Communication Style is Key

Before you dive into execution, think about how you like to consume information and collaborate with others, and communicate these preferences to your agency right away. These details matter. Your agency has to be able to meet you where you are and communicate effectively to keep the program running smoothly. 

While email chains and phone calls are often the default, consider if quicker communication methods would enhance your cross-team workflow. For instance, a shared Slack channel might facilitate immediate feedback and ongoing dialogue, while Teams DMs could streamline exchanges by integrating directly with your existing workplace tools. 

Consider the following:  

  • Frequency of check-ins — How often do you need to discuss updates? 
  • Tools for communication — Which channels do you prefer? Is there a need to use different channels for different purposes?   
  • Reporting format — How and what do you communicate up to your company’s leadership, and with what frequency? Sharing this with your agency enables them to better support your internal efforts. 

This proactive approach not only smooths day-to-day interactions but also enhances the overall effectiveness of your collaborations, ensuring that your agency can swiftly and accurately align with your operational needs. 

Balance Strategy Work with Quick Wins

We find that initiating programs with some level of strategic brand strategy work, such as developing refreshed messaging or conducting audience research, sets a strong groundwork for more effective results. However, during these initial projects, your agency should also actively pursue quick wins alongside these longer-term initiatives.  

Quick wins, or “low hanging fruit,” are activities that aren’t a heavy lift and yield quick results. Some examples include introductory outreach to media, publishing a timely blog post, or placing a byline. These early wins are important for several reasons: they provide immediate value that you can communicate internally, validate your agency choice as well as the program’s strategic direction, and further strengthen the relationship between your teams. 

Look to your agency for recommendations on the foundational work needed at the start of your program to set your brand up for future successes, and how to pair this with achievable quick wins to start making measurable progress against your objectives right away. During this early stage, be sure to pass on feedback and reactions from your company about these early wins. This will help the team gauge what resonates internally and adjust strategies accordingly. 

By focusing on both long- and short-term impact during your kickoff with a new agency, you’ll ensure your program not only starts with strong momentum, but also has the strong foundation on which to continue building over time.

Finally, Trust the Process — And Your Partner

Trust is fundamental to a successful partnership. Once you’ve selected an agency to work with, commit to the process by providing them with all the information they need to succeed and embracing their expertise and recommendations. If you’ve chosen your new partner wisely, the elements outlined in the tips above should occur naturally and seamlessly, enabling your relationship and program to quickly find its rhythm and start firing on all cylinders.   

However, if you notice friction or feel that critical first steps are being missed, maintain open lines of communication and address these issues immediately. This ensures that any initial challenges are managed effectively, maintains clarity of your expectations, and helps to steer your program back on track.