Summary:

Bringing in a new agency can be fraught with pitfalls, but the most common seems to be the creation of “silos.” Your other agencies can cut out the new guys from key conversations so your social media marketing team can’t properly integrate their work.

First you hired a public relations firm, then perhaps an ad agency. Then your found a web developer and then graduated to an interactive agency. Now you need a social media marketing agency.

On rare occasion, you can find one shop that does all of these tasks and does them all well. More likely, as new forms of communications and marketing crop up with the development of new technologies, you have to go to a newly formed shop that is well-versed and immersed in the new ways.

So what happens when you start your foray into social media marketing by outsourcing to a new agency? You face a number of challenges, not the least of which is some tension from your existing agencies who may insist they know everything there is to know about social media while simultaneously scrambling to get up to speed.

Bringing in a new agency can be fraught with pitfalls, but the most common seems to be the creation of “silos.” Your other agencies — or even in-house marketing and communications departments — can cut out the new guys from key conversations or withhold critical information so your social media marketing team can’t properly integrate their work into your outreach efforts.

What you want to see happen is:

  • Communication. Open discussions from the moment the new agency is introduced to establish that nobody is in competition but are all working toward a common goal.
  • Cooperation. Willingly and frequently sharing information and assimilating the new agency as an integral part of your communications team.
  • Collaboration. Bringing the new agency into projects from the start, not as an afterthought.

But with dispersed teams often vying for as much of your business pie as they can slice off, how do you foster an atmosphere of cooperation instead of competition?

If You’re Hiring the Team

If you’re the one hiring the new team to bring into the mix, there are some steps you can take to ensure that all your teams work together:

  • Be open. If you are hiring others to carry out your communications work, everything starts with you. So from the start, make sure you are open with all your teams as to your expectations, particularly as to how you expect them to work together.
  • Be clear. Clearly define roles, communicate who is responsible for what tasks, and outline your expectations to everyone separately and then together so everyone is playing by the same rule book.
  • Be inclusive. If you are leaving someone out of the critical initial strategic conversations, you set a tone and pattern for others to do the same.
  • Don’t create new silos. Including new teams at all stages of your planning and execution processes could mean discovering new opportunities and enhancing existing tactics.
  • Don’t take sides. You may end up taking an almost parental role if your agencies begin finger pointing, but nip that in the bud immediately and always do what is best for your company as a whole, not what satisfies one agency or team versus another.
  • Ask for something from everyone. If you want to see some creative from the advertising team, you should include your PR and social media marketing teams in the mix. Integrated marketing is not a new concept, but you need to put that into practice every day.
  • Re-examine your workflow. Have touch points over time (maybe monthly and quarterly) to make sure that your new social media marketing team is becoming an integral part of the process. Have open and honest conversations and get critical feedback to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Measure and leverage results. Don’t look for ways to prove or disprove that one type of marketing is better than another. It isn’t about pitting PR against advertising against social media marketing. It is about finding what works and building upon successes.

If You’re Part of a Team

The flip side of hiring an agency is being part of a team or agency that is being hired to assimilate into an existing group to provide social media marketing services. Here are a few things you should consider as you enter into the new relationship:

  • Be aware. Understand the dynamics of different business interests. Each agency has their own bottom line on their minds but all the teams should be working toward a common goal: Helping the client to succeed.
  • Be available. Establish and maintain open lines of communications so other teams or agencies can’t accuse you of being unavailable or unwilling to participate in planning sessions or other key events in the creative and execution process.
  • Extend a hand. As new kid on the block, look for ways where you can help other teams or agencies get a win. Offer to help where you see others needing additional support. Prove yourself to be the asset that you know you can be by making the first overtures to participate.
  • Play nice in the sandbox. Your goal should not be to win additional business by taking work from another agency. If you win new business from the client, it should be on the merits of your work, not because you stepped on toes, threw sand in faces and undermined others. You’ll lose in the long run.
  • Look for collaborative opportunities. Maybe the other agencies aren’t bringing you into the fold as readily as you’d hoped. Don’t be discouraged but instead look for ways to bring them into the social media marketing realm in meaningful ways. Prove that everyone can win when working together.
  • Give kudos. Regardless of how other teams are reacting to you, be the first to say something positive about others. Compliment their work, celebrate their wins. You know what they say about honey versus vinegar. But be sincere. You’re all part of the same team even if you might reside at a different company.
  • Keep good records. Even while keeping a positive attitude and being professional, you shouldn’t be Pollyanna about everything. Keep careful records of work rendered, goals achieved, lessons learned and communications and interactions with other teams. It’s both good business practice and also protection in case there is ever a conflict.

No matter which side of the fence you sit, it is up to everyone at the top to set positive examples to everyone else on each team. Don’t approach inter-agency relationships from a position of scarcity but instead employ an attitude of abundance. There is enough work to go around for everyone who does good work. And the more you all work well together and better serve the client, the more work they’ll gladly outsource to build on that success.

How are you working social media marketing teams into your process?

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