Our job at tMa is to make tech startups’ marketing and communications programs as successful as possible, but like most things in life and work, that requires a reciprocal relationship. Whether you work with us or not, here’s how to foster the best working partnership with your agency:
Provide full visibility into your marketing and business plans. This includes inviting your account team to important planning meetings and presentations. If they’re unable to attend in-person or listen in, send them any presentations from the meeting afterward.
Be proactive and share ideas. Any good agency will frequently pitch you on new communication ideas and campaign concepts, but don’t rely on them to do everything. You’re still the person closest to the business, so there may be opportunities you see based on your day-to-day that the agency simply doesn’t have access to.
Be clear and realistic about your goals. What are your high-level business, marketing and communication goals, and are they achievable? If your account team doesn’t know what you need, it’s difficult for them to provide it. Always be clear on what your expectations are -- and hold your agency accountable if they fall short.
Give them the scoop and do it early. Are you releasing a new product? Funding underway? Your agency must know what’s going on behind closed doors so they can plan and advise you properly. This includes the bad stuff. In fact, tell them early especially when there's bad news, so they can help you get ahead of the problem.
Get to know them. This is a long-term relationship. Getting to know your account staff shows not only improves your communication with them, it’s also a good opportunity to expand your professional network. (At tMa, we’re in daily contact with a wide array of people in the tech world, and we love to socially connect our clients with people we think they should know.)
Be specific with your requests. When you send an email to your agency, your entire account team is reading it, discussing internally how to respond, and then developing a thoughtful response to you. If you're not specific about why you’re sending something or what you want to happen, it can suck up your account team’s time. One example: If you’re forwarding an email about a new executive, be specific about the communication context. Is this an executive you want to publically announce? Or is it just an FYI?
Always be available. This is especially important for anything media-related. PR is a very time-sensitive and deadline-driven industry. Sometimes a journalist may want a comment from an executive within the hour for a story they’re writing. Your agency needs your help making sure they meet those deadlines.
Finally, be patient! It often takes several months to start seeing results with an agency, such as major news coverage, speaking opportunities, or the launch of a new website. Good marketing and communications is not something you can turn on and off ad hoc, but builds on itself over time.
For many companies, an agency will be their largest recurring marketing expense, so it’s important to make the most of the relationship. But as these tips illustrate, that means investing the time and attention required to make that relationship work.