How to Work with an Agency and Not Lose Your Brand VoiceBy Kristen Shoates
We get it. It can be a little scary to hire an agency, especially for the first time. Like any committed relationship, you hope it will be mutually beneficial and that it will challenge you while still letting you be true to yourself.
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of hiring an agency can be letting them write for you. How can someone outside of your organization really know you that well? Is it actually possible preserve your brand voice while outsourcing content?
Whether your agency does a few ads or writes entire blog posts, it’s likely that they will end up creating content for you in some form or another. And as people who write for organizations other than ourselves everyday, we’re here to tell you that it IS possible to get it right – with a little help from you, of course. Here are five things you can do to build a successful agency relationship, without losing your brand voice:
1) Know yourself
Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t know your own brand, you can’t expect anyone else (an agency or your audience!) to really know you. Your brand voice is made up of two main factors: your brand essence and your tone. Your essence is the key elements and emotions that capture your brand. It is the qualities you feel, even if they’re unspoken: luxury, adventure, quality, warmth, hospitality, tradition, etc. Your tone, often born from the essence, is the way you talk to your audience: Is it casual? Playful? Sarcastic? Warm and familiar?
Spending time defining your brand will help you clearly and directly communicate the essence and tone to your agency, which will equip their content writers with basic style guidelines they need to know to get started.
2) Spend time together
One of the best ways for your agency to get to know your brand voice is to spend quality time together – face-to-face, in person time. At the start of any long-term marketing relationship, The A Group will typically spend few days at your organization, seeing, feeling and experiencing the work you do. In addition to the conversations had during these sessions, the first-hand experience allows us to pick up on culture and emotions that often remain unspoken.
On an ongoing basis, look for ways to connect personally and spend time together, whether that be regular in-person meetings or at least by phone if distance is a factor. Email is great for efficiency, but when it comes to brand voice, it can’t replace a real conversation.
3) Provide specific feedback
As much as a good agency will work on their end to understand you and adapt to your brand voice, they can’t read minds. If there’s something you don’t like or that doesn’t sound like you, be specific in your feedback. Explain not just what you don’t like but also why it’s not in line with your brand voice. This coaching will help your agency understand practically what works and what doesn’t and adapt their voice to yours.
4) Be patient
As in any relationship, it’s going to take time for your agency to get to you know you really well. While we do all we can to discover who you are, understand your tone and essence and develop strategic content, nothing can replace the knowledge that comes with time. Don’t abandon the relationship too soon; brand voice is something that is developed, and it can sometimes take several months of collaboration for the magic to really happen.
5) Let go, just a little bit
Consistent brand voice is important; believe us, we’re all just a little bit neurotic when it comes to brands over here. However, at times, ego or internal sensitivities can cloud the conversation and over complicate the process. Keep in mind that your brand is a marketing tool, not everything that you are, and that you might have certain preferences or nuances that have little effect on how your audience perceives your brand. Your agency’s job is to hone in on a few core elements that make your brand connect with an audience and communicate those clearly and simply – not to capture all of your many, wonderful complexities. As you work with an agency, you must be willing to speak up when necessary but also to let go and let your agency offer outside perspective – one of the main reasons you hired them.
At the end of the day, you want an agency that “gets you” – and we get that. For starters, remember that for someone to truly get to know you, you have to know yourself. That, combined with time, relationship-building, great feedback and openness to learning from each other, can lead to a very successful agency relationship where your brand voice is not just preserved but perfected.