It's a great question because for most corporate marketing or communications departments, transitioning to a new marketing services provider -- whether it be an advertising, PR or digital media agency -- is a very significant undertaking.
In most instances, the organization will have just completed a time-intensive, time-consuming, costly and exhausting agency review that took anywhere from two weeks to six months, and longer in a number of cases. During the agency review, key internal review stakeholders likely sacrificed their "day jobs" to choreograph a thorough review process.
And let's not forget that long before the agency review was actually underway, the corporate team running the review spent hour upon hour questioning, debating and deliberating the real need for a review and some time wondering if the existing agency relationship should or could be salvaged. After all, wouldn't it be easiest if we just stayed with our existing agency? That question crosses the mind of most every corporate decision maker since making a change means lots of heavy lifting, at least in the short term. Typically, the negative impact of sticking with an incumbent agency where the relationship has run its course is much costlier than the short-term start up costs associated with bringing a new agency up to speed.
Corporate pros who know the agency review drill typically sprint from the completion of the agency selection process to the next critical step: the transition from the incumbent agency to the new agency.
To this point, and to help answer the question that's been asked of me of late, here are my seven agency transition management keys:
- Establish a collegial relationship among the incumbent and new agency with clear expectations set by the client.
- Insist on transition sessions with the outgoing agency where an extensive and detailed analysis of all immediate outstanding corporate and product issues can be discussed and transitioned. Clients should be prepared to pay a fee to the outgoing agency at the successful conclusion of the transition period.
- Clearly determine which agency will be completing press-related activities that are in progress.
- The client's IT department should be made aware of the transition so it can provide the new agency with access to the client's intranet(s), email, phone system, etc. The incoming agency's technology needs to be in sync and compatible with the client's systems.
- The client's international constituents should be alerted to the change in agencies, as well as the company's internal marketing and communications employees and any local and regional agencies that are supporting the company.
- The incoming agency should meet with the client's executive and communications team leaders to hold a strategy session to ensure the new agency, senior executives and communications team leaders are on the same page regarding the company's business goals and objectives and how the communications program is going to support them.
- Procurement and the client's financial department should be made aware of the transition so the outgoing agency is paid on time for its final month(s) and the incoming agency is entered into the company's supplier database.
Based on your experiences, are there other transition management keys that should be considered?