Platform Communications Views

Picking an agency: big or specialist?

OK – so, I’m clearly biased onPlatform Communications - David Lawrence this but bear with me… in 20+ years in the agency game I’ve played both sides of the big vs. specialist agency debate.

If you’re looking for a new agency it’s all about getting the right fit, here are some thoughts that might help you decide who to speak to…

Big brands are not necessarily the safe option

Global agencies can seem like the safe choice but the reality is you’re always hiring a team, never the brand. You might get great people who are well suited to your challenge – but you might not. Always insist on meeting the whole team that will work on your business. Have they worked in your space before and are they genuinely passionate about your industry?

Look for a good conversation about your objectives

A good agency will want to help you achieve business objectives as well as just raising awareness and generating heat and noise. To do that they need to understand what’s really important about your audiences, your brand and the context it operates in. And they will deliver deeper insights as a result. You’ll be able to tell from the questions they ask you.

The right creativity

Creativity is equally important in B2B as it is in B2C communications. Effective creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it relies on having a defined strategy that’s built on understanding of a brand and its audiences and industries. Is the agency offering a clear strategy that ties back to business objectives or is it just throwing exciting sounding tactics at you?

The power of connections

It might be a case of knowing the right journalists, or you might need something happen for you at a key industry event. Does your agency have deep connections? Will you get to work with the people that actually have those connections or are they in the little black book of someone else you will rarely get access to?

Time pressure and project based relationships

Any team worth its salt will learn about an industry with decent research and being committed to spending time with you. If you need help with a project, or need to ramp-up quickly do you have the time to help educate them?

Does the agency act like it would be part of your team?

An agency might create a campaign that’s so blindingly brilliant you’ll buy it lock, stock and barrel straight off a PowerPoint deck. The reality is that developing and executing an idea is done in close agency/client partnership. Does the team invite feedback – do they listen? Are they prepared to give you honest viewpoints too?

Ways of working and culture

You may feel like you have plenty of your own processes and politics to deal with – some agencies will need to add their own red tape rather than being agile to your needs. Equally, everyone loves a trophy but does the agency seem most proud of its own awards or the success it has delivered for clients?

I’d love to know your experiences and if you’re looking for an agency, or maybe need some help creating an agency brief please drop me a line: