Think about it. What is it about certain people or environments that make you enjoy your work more? You probably feel empowered, that there is an open exchange of ideas, and encouragement to express your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Whether it’s personal or in the business world, it is clear. The more collaboration, the greater the trust, learning, growth and innovation.
According to Wikipedia, collaboration is “the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal.”
The notion of collaboration is relatively well understood, yet, some people still don’t embrace it. Countless times, we’ve been on the receiving end of this equation. A company hires us to help them achieve a major initiative, such as helping them craft an industry category or provide ongoing PR services to build awareness or thought leadership.
Companies spend a fair amount of money having us pursue these things. Yet, some of them don’t put the time nor effort into sharing and collaborating with us to help make it successfully happen.
It’s kind of astounding, to be honest. And also a bit disheartening.
In a recent issue of Forbes, an article on this very subject appeared, “New Study Finds That Collaboration Drives Workplace Performance.” In it, it cites a number of studies, but, one — a Stanford study from a few years ago — found that even the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge people’s performance. “The results showed that simply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges,” the researchers say.
While the article is talking about internal members of a team, the same principles hold true for a company’s partners. When your agency (whatever kind it is, Digital Marketing, Advertising, PR, etc.) is treated as a member of your team – and as an insider, what a difference it can make! Over the 19 years we have been in business, the companies who included us in their strategy development and planning – who proactively communicated with us, sought our opinion/advice and invited us to participate in their company/team activities were the ones where we had the most impact. Bar none.
These also were the companies that empowered us to do our jobs. That doesn’t mean we had full leeway to do whatever we wanted. It meant there was mutual trust, respect and collaboration built around our communications – which were always two-way (not one-way or “no-way”).
There are numerous examples I can cite throughout my career of the power of collaboration. But one in particular comes to mind. We were an integral member of the team helping shift a company (and its accompanying perception) from where it was at the time (a prosumer packaged software producer) to an entirely new market category focused on the enterprise. It sought to enter and brand itself in new markets where it had no presence, no awareness, no recognition.
They listened to our ideas, our strategies and approach. They enlisted our help and gave our recommendations their full attention. And most importantly, it started at the top. There were many constituents we had to consider. Shareholders (they were publicly traded on NASDAQ); customers (they were the “darling” of their industry with a very strong and loyal fan base); partners; employees; their local community – and more. Within less than three years, we had successfully re-positioned this company as an enterprise solutions provider, developed an entirely new market category that others were quickly entering and were considered the market leader and innovator.
When I think back to how we were able to successfully do all this within a relatively short period of time, it boils down to mutual respect, communication and collaboration. We were treated as part of the team. They asked for our advice – and most often, took it. We worked well together and because of that, were able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.
So, if you feel you aren’t getting the most out of your agency, ask yourself:
- Are you treating your agency truly as insiders or as team members? Or do you keep them at an arm’s length from what really is transpiring within your company?
- Are the CEO, CMO and other C-level execs actively involved with your agency regarding strategic initiatives?
- Do you often tell your agencies things “after the fact” versus involving them early on regarding major company or marketing initiatives?
- Do you ask for your agency’s opinions or recommendations? Or do you just tell them what is needed from your perspective?
- Do you regularly have brainstorming meetings with your agency – alone or with other members of your team and the company?
If the answer is mostly “no,” then you should rethink your relationship. Collaboration and communication are two-way streets. You know the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.”
The more your agency knows, has context and understanding around what the company is trying to achieve, the better job it will do. Collaboration is the underpinning to getting the most out of what you are investing in your agency.
You might just be surprised at the difference it can make.