Playing Nice in a Multifaceted Media Environment

SMALL_Adryanna Sutherland Tip Sheet headshotThese days it’s not uncommon for clients to work with multiple agencies for their marketing programs. With many specialist agencies out there, clients often see value in applying an agency’s expertise in a particular area—be it consumer, business-to-business, media or creative.

So how do multiple agencies play nice in this increasingly collaborative environment? Here are a few suggestions:

Know your role. Define everyone’s responsibilities at the outset so that everyone understands his/her responsibilities. Designate an individual to own the work and be in control of the team’s direction. This person may be from the client’s team, or the client might tap an agency to be the strategic lead. The agency that has the lead role usually has the strongest voice in the plan’s strategic framework.

Other agencies are often brought in to lead certain disciplines. All the agencies bring their collective input and/or work on the tactical plans. Everyone must understand how this execution and the tactics will work together, or the whole plan falls apart.

Have regular communication. Keep all parties in the loop so that no surprises occur. Have standing calls and touch-base meetings to be sure that all agencies on the team are informed and that due dates are moving according to plan. It’s important to pick up the phone to resolve potential issues rather than going back and forth on email, which can escalate problems.

If possible, hold in-person meetings quarterly or twice a year in order to build agency relationships. When you have the opportunity, make a real effort to get to know these other agencies.

Have a clear process for team engagement. Make sure all disciplines are engaged at the onset to activate in their channels. The client is counting on its agencies to be strategic partners in addition to technical executors. Decide how the team will come up with the plan and then present the plan jointly to the client.

Bring your best ideas and always defend the other agency. You want to work collaboratively for the client. The goal is to get to a place where all parties can build innovative marketing tactics that bring excellent results.

Share your work. Sharing work can be tricky, and this is one of those areas where all agencies must be in agreement. Be sensitive to what’s proprietary and be respectful of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Protect each other’s intellectual properties, and do not lose each other’s respect and trust. Sometimes you have to let down your guard for true collaboration.

Be inclusive and share key learnings in order to help the client. Use collaboration tools to house documents in a central place online.

Resolve any differences. Remember that anything that goes wrong can affect the entire team, so tackle issues head-on and communicate any pushback at the outset. Try to resolve these differences directly with the other agency and without going to the client. It’s important to bring a positive attitude.

Moreover, if you assess the situation from a viewpoint that the other agency has good intentions, you are likely not to have as many differences to resolve. When disputes occur, rise above any disagreements and strive to work in concert. If you can be the glue that holds everyone together, it shows your agency’s value even more.

Stifle your urge to be competitive. A joint collaboration is not the time to make a play to steal all the business. The client will appreciate your agency even more if you can respect the boundaries of the job. If your agency has been brought in for a specific part of the project, it’s important to realize that this is your opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities.

Don’t be afraid to give a referral. It’s always nice when agencies are confident enough to recommend other agencies when a client is looking for a new partner.

Check your ego and know what your team is good at while also knowing what expertise other agencies can bring. It’s okay to turn down business if you know you cannot do your best work. You want the client to shine.

Collaboration can be challenging. The key is to remember that everyone is working for the same client. There is a reason the client picked the group of agencies that it did, so make the client’s job easier by working together to build the business. Remember that all boats rise with the tide. PRN


Adryanna Sutherland is president of gyro Cincinnati. She can be reached at


  • Holly Michael

    Great points. I would add “leave your ego at the door.” Once you acknowledge the value the other agency brings, then following the rest of these suggestions is more natural (and fun).