Five tips for managing a creative agency effectively

Whether you have just hired a new agency or you have been working with the same team for years, the principles of team management remain the same. If you communicate, set reasonable targets and stay open to negotiation, things will go smoothly, right?

The problem? It’s rarely that easy. We can all relate to a time when the creative team miss-understood the direction of a branding campaign, or handed something in two weeks late without any warning.

These hold-ups are symptomatic of a communication issue. Was your company unclear in laying out a design aesthetic? Why did the creative agency not warn you weeks before about a late submission?

When communication breakdowns inevitably occur, it offers a chance to re-think your management strategy. Here are five tips for effectively managing a creative agency:

1.    Make your expectations clear from the beginning

It is imperative to set clear expectations at the very first meeting. Have a list of desired outcomes that are as material as can be. For example, if you want to redesign the company website, avoid industry buzzwords like “sleek” or “easy-to-navigate” because they are not useful signposts. Instead, describe the color schemes you are thinking about and give a list of the things your customers want to see on a website. This is the kind of material content a creative agency thrives off of.

2.    Establish quality communication and workflow channels up front

One of the most common pitfalls in client-agency relations is lack of quality communication channels. How is your marketing team going to set-up meetings and communicate directly with the agency team? If you’re thinking Google Calendar and Google Drive, then you are living in the past. Quality communication starts on your end. That means setting up an interactive team scheduling application to book meetings, track deadlines and micro-tasks, and allow for smooth communication between teams.

3.    Set monthly team meeting to stay on track

If you have established quality workflow channels between the two teams, then you do not have to meet every week. Weekly in-person meetings were important in pre-internet days, when a company could only call or fax with a creative agency during the week. Today, meeting once a month is all you need to stay on track because employees swamp information back and forth every day with ease.

4.    Flexible deadlines for more extensive, high-quality products

For small one-off projects, it is okay to keep a strict schedule. However, high-quality products take time, and should not be rushed. If it seems as though a deadline will be missed, do not penalize the agency for it. The reasons for late submission usually have to do with intangibles that could not be planned for, so both parties should bear responsibility. An efficient way to ensure large-scale products are completed on time is to break the overall product down into clear stages. Set micro-deadlines for the completion of each phase, and hold people accountable to them.

5.    Boundaries are a must

Are there topics you do not want to touch on? If so, make it clear to the agency what kinds of content is out of bounds for your brand. Working with creative types is all about setting clear parameters so that the final product is a home run, rather than just a single.  


Pitfalls and miscommunication are part and parcel of collaborative work. However, with enough foresight and planning - not to mention the right management tools - it is possible to avoid major hold-ups. Keep these five types in mind when collaborating with a creative agency. They might just be the antidote you need for recurring management headaches.

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