At JR Communications, we believe that the best work comes from forming real partnerships with our clients rather than operating in a traditional vendor/client relationship. This is true whether a client hires an agency to serve all their marketing and communications needs or to complement their existing in-house marketing and communications team.
Building a collaborative relationship with your communications agency as your partner rather than as a vendor at arms-length allows you to achieve better results. You benefit from shared knowledge from all parties, a cohesive strategy, and streamlined project management.
Here’s what we encourage our client partners to do to ensure successful collaboration.
1. Set clear and realistic expectations
When we begin a partnership, we work with the organization to set clear and realistic expectations for each other and for our shared projects. Although we work as creatively and diligently as we can to create “magic” for our partners, we need our partners to understand what’s possible before we move forward.
These guidelines need to be discussed transparently at the beginning of each partnership:
- What are the desired outcomes of your projects?
- Who needs to be “in the room” for each project?
- Who is responsible for providing the key information needed for your projects?
- How will each side collect feedback from the other?
- What is the process for crises?
Once these questions are answered, the organization and their communications partners know more about each other’s preferences, are able to reduce unnecessary confusion, and can align their goals.
2. Bring ideas to the table
To benefit from the expertise on both sides of the partnership, everyone needs to bring ideas to the table.
Organizations need to share their ideas with their communications partners, just as much as their communications partners need to share their ideas. It can’t be a one-way street. An equal back-and-forth allows each to learn from the other, demonstrates commitment, and lets your partnership benefit from everyone’s unique expertise.
Likewise, each of us needs to listen to the other’s ideas.
Your communications partners may propose solutions or areas of exploration that relate not just to their projects but also to your overall messaging or goals. Be open. When our JR Communications team makes these proposals to its client partners, we’re leveraging our spectrum of diverse experience to find the best ways to meet our partners’ needs.
3. Be transparent
Organizations shouldn’t hide information from their communications partners. We all know that within organizations, it’s easy to silo information, even if it’s not on purpose. This detracts from successful communications strategies; nobody wants it to look like an organization’s right arm isn’t talking to its left.
Your communications partners are not mind-readers, so it’s important to share information that helps them understand your perspective, your concerns, and your preferences. This transparency allows communications pieces to be part of a cohesive strategy and align with your brand voice.
Additionally, if there’s upcoming changes or news related to your organization, share that with your communications partners. When our partners do this for us, we’re able to adapt our strategies and make recommendations that support where the organization will be in the future.
4. Be flexible
Speaking of changes, both organizations and their communications partners need to be open to adaptation and be able to pivot when the situation calls for it.
We all know that the world changes every day, in big and small ways. Those changes can impact the emotions, opinions, and questions that audiences have. Being flexible lets organizations and their communications partners make changes to their strategies when needed to make sure that they can continue to reach their audiences, build positive connections, and deliver their messaging successfully.
Collaboration is critical to building successful partnerships. When partnering with a communications agency, organizations need to be prepared to set expectations, bring ideas to the table, be transparent, and be open to change.
When we work with organizations, our JR Communications team is a true partner. Instead of working as an external vendor, we integrate ourselves in order to understand our partners’ values, goals, and perspectives. When communications agencies work with their clients like this, they’re able to get the big picture and create effective communications strategies that support their partners’ goals.