People are often surprised when I tell them our agency works with as many HR departments as marketing departments.
There’s no question of HR’s growing impact on business strategy. A role historically dedicated to record keeping, payroll and benefits administration has become tied to (and sometimes leads) a company’s business strategy and performance.
But why would an HR department engage a branding agency? The reason is pretty simple – people drive success.
It doesn’t take much to draw a connection between engaged, motivated employees and good business results. Everything you do – from setting strategy to developing a plan and ultimately just getting things done – is dependent on having the right people, with the right skills in place. Without the right team in place, even the best leader can struggle to implement ideas and deliver poor results. Which is why so much effort is spent attracting, hiring and retaining the right employees.
Which brings us to branding. Attractive brands inspire employees as much as they engage customers. So when an HR leader is looking to strengthen their recruitment, internal communications and employee engagement initiatives, the job is a lot easier when they have a strong company brand to leverage.
It’s pretty straightforward until the reality of other organizational factors enters into the equation. Whether it’s a matter of available resources, competing priorities or simply role definition, putting the right talent structure in place often involves getting help from an outside agency.
There’s no doubt that your peers in Marketing can supply a short list of branding agencies to look into, but how do you sort through all the capabilities presentations and flashy work samples to find that “right fit” in an agency partner?
Go to what you know – interview them. Evaluate prospective agencies just as you would employee candidates – review what they have done, but place emphasis on where they can take you. Find the candidate who can serve you and your business best by evaluating the 5 “C”s of agency engagement:
An agency will bring expertise and a wide variety of people who all have different strengths to the table. Does the mix of skills enhance what you have today? Is a structure in place to grow and evolve as your business needs do?
Do you see action-oriented creative that serves purpose? Are messages conveyed in an attention-grabbing way? How are alternate ideas and perspectives collected and managed in the creative process?
When there is good chemistry on a team, the members are more invested, more collaborative and more creative. So be sure to assess how the agency’s passion aligns with your company culture and brand vision. Can you see yourself working with these people every day?
You’ll never have all the answers. Neither will your agency. Courage is the ability to lead through ambiguity, speak up and take calculated risks based on what is known. It’s confronting issues in an effort to improve, coupled with willingness and desire to accept responsibility for results.
Does the agency understand your industry and the things that drive your company’s success? Obviously, ramp-up time is to be expected, but if the learning curve is too steep, things will fall apart quickly. Look for smart, clarifying questions. The more the better.
Just like screening job candidates, you can quickly identify behavioral, interpersonal and communication styles that feel natural to you. Sometimes it will come down to a gut feel, but if your discussions around these traits feel natural and balanced, chances are you’ll pick an agency partner that you’ll be excited to work with.