Conducting a New Agency Search and Getting to Know Your Agency’s New Team Members During the Pandemic -Joanne Davis
Joanne Davis, founder and President at Joanne Davis Consulting, helps clients find, evaluate, start new and maintain existing relationships with advertising agencies. They empower clients to handle a wide variety of issues and matters strategically when operating Internationally.
Joanne recently spoke for one of the ANA Committees about adjusting to the new business environment, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, we have had to find different ways to successfully communicate with one another. Virtual meetings are great, but they are not the same as in person; we lose body language, and with technology lags we don’t always get to see facial expressions in real time.
These changes especially are apparent when the time comes to send a request for information or a request for proposal. So, we have to be more specific and direct; in our own searches, and while speaking with clients on their wishes.
In light of all these changes in communication, I created an overview of techniques to compensate for these challenges.
The basics will stay the same, but a purposeful client will go a step or two further to better set the stage in selecting agencies and learning about the agency team.
Selecting the agencies:
· If ever there is a time to do homework on the agencies, it’s now. Prepare or have your consultants prepare a long list of agencies that fit your specs. But, rather than automatically sending them your mutual NDA and then your RFI, consider pre-reference checking. For example, recently hired client staff members’ experience with candidate agencies, network with the ANA members or other colleagues who work with potential agencies to learn their thoughts about the culture. It’s not just the agencies named to Adage’s A-list. They’re great agencies, but they might not be the right fit for you.
· For media, if transparency is critical, do pre-work to more thoroughly learn agency policies and practices.
· At the risk of self-promotion, a search consultant can add extra value as the consultants handle numerous searches a year and are in touch with hundreds of agencies. They can thus provide a strong, current view into your candidate agencies’ cultures as well as practices, and bring added leverage.
Getting to know each other:
· Clients must describe their Client culture honestly and thoroughly in the agency brief and initial RFI — many RFIs don’t share enough about the client and are not as clear as they should be now. Share more detailed client bios than you might have done in the past.
· Clients must be very specific in defining the agency team members’ ‘job descriptions’ and qualifications for success on the client’s account — and request more detailed, relevant bios to match these specs earlier in the search process. Historically, clients have asked for “short bios” or “management bios.” We suggest more detailed bios with photos and evidence of team member personalities. Could be with a video or other personality-infused examples.
I also put together some questions for the client to ask the agency, in order to get a fairly fast understanding of cultural fit.
· Describe yourselves in one sentence
· How has your agency handled COVID response with your employees?
· How have you maintained culture with WFH?
· What collaboration tools do you use?
· What’s a successful client business contribution delivered while WFH?
· How hard was it?
· What did you learn from it?
· How will it change the way you work when back in the office?
This is a short overview of how we see communication and relationships change in the current environment and how we support our clients to overcome these challenges.”