When I worked as an in-house Head of Comms, I was adamant that the lion’s share of my budget would be channelled into a made-to-measure team, operating under the same roof. We were making the case for a brand-new energy market and the majority of the world’s domain knowledge was in the building. Why rely on comms resource one step removed from the action?
Admittedly, this was part fuelled by control freakery. But it worked pretty well. And when we did dip into agency support, it was mostly temporary, targeted and additional to in-house efforts. Having come from the agency world, I felt I stood a decent chance of extracting the good and sidestepping the bad.
That pick ‘n’ mix approach might work for you too. But now I’m back on agency-side, you’ll forgive me for once again considering the merits of a more enduring agency relationship!
Because the right agency partner for you is out there.
How do you define ‘right’? It’s a small part chemistry – some working relationships just feel right - and a large part industry knowledge and exposure.
Why on earth would you spend your precious budget teaching your agency team the basics? The right partner will already be fluent. And why should it be incumbent on you to keep them abreast of the comings and goings in your sector? The right partner will have their finger on the pulse and be capable of participating in a two-way exchange of information with you.
That’s not to say you’re looking for perfection. No one will know your business and your corner of your industry quite as well as you do. To expect so is an exercise in disappointment. But you’ll undoubtedly be able to find transferable experience and a depth of related knowledge sufficient to enable creative thinking and challenging perspectives.
And that’s where a good agency relationship really comes into its own. Your in-house team is exposed to the same discussions, the same influences and largely the same external stimuli. That only compounds over time.
If it’s the right agency for you, it will inject a healthy level of debate to your working day. Your agency will probe, it will test your assumptions, it will play devil’s advocate, corroborate your ideas and present fresh ones too. Otherwise, why bother?
So as you finalise budget allocations for next year, I’d encourage you to consider both options. Building a core, high-performing in-house team remains, in my view, a non-negotiable. But consider also what this team cannot give you. Because there is an agency out there who can.
What’s more, with the right agency on board, the dividing lines between in and out-of-house should be blurred at the start and largely invisible after a few months. You should have one support team and the question of how many are internal and how many external becomes irrelevant.
In an ever-shrinking world, the chances are you won’t find – or need to find – your ideal partner in the same city, same country or even same continent as you. But you still have a few months of this year left to find them – happy hunting!