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— Article 13  Partnering in the Covid Era

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Through 20 years in business, we’ve seen a lot. We’ve run our agency in post-9/11 New York City, and we’ve supported our clients and staff through the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. With the Covid Era coming gradually into focus, we thought it a good time to share some guidance on partnering with agencies that might help companies, institutions, and organizations find their footing and navigate this period.

Here are 5 cornerstones we practice here at the Brooklyn Digital Foundry, and that we’re actively speaking to our clients about to ensure healthy, productive relationships at a time of stress and uncertainty.

1. Be prudent.

Make the best decision for your organization at each step. For some, refining or finalizing existing work or launching new initiatives to answer this moment will mean accelerating or opening new engagements with agencies to capitalize on their unique skills. But – as much as we in the agency world would prefer otherwise – in some cases this will mean pausing existing contracts and suspending new initiatives. However difficult these decisions are, they can extend your ability to support your staff and serve your consumers, audiences, and communities. They can also make your organization more resilient as we climb out of this.

Maximizing your own runway and achieving long-term health will support your ability to seek innovative solutions to the new paradigms that will emerge over the coming months, and agencies will again be your right hand in imagining and implementing those plans.

2. Be patient.

Something we’ve told our team internally is equally true for client-agency relationships right now. Every organization is managing a lot more than the logistics of virtual meetings. Members of teams are grappling with work and childcare schedules, impacted or at-risk family members and friends, the mounting psychological and physical stresses of the situation, and more. Organizations are plotting resources around lost hours and personnel while managing disruptions to everything from decision-flows to supply-chains.

Crises are moments where our humanity can shine. Pause, take a breath, and be patient.

Crises are moments where our humanity can shine. Pause, take a breath, and be patient. Ask people how they’re doing, and take the time to listen. Agency-client relationships are inherently deadline-focused, but we can work together to meet those demands while giving each other an incredible gift – the time to reflect and make both good decisions and great work.

3. Be open.

Within our team, we’ve talked a lot about over-communicating as a key pillar of collaboration-in-isolation. But increasing the frequency and rhythm of connections is only one piece of the puzzle. Especially around issues of planning and finances, transparency is more necessary than ever.

Transparency promotes trust, strengthening your partnership for the post-Covid era.

Frank, honest assessments of emerging situations can help agencies move your initiatives forward and maximize their potential. A few things that might influence existing or planned work are:

  • Shifts in organizational priorities
  • Changes to availability or attention of team members and decision-makers
  • Revisions to approved budgets or scopes
  • Delays in fund authorizations or payments

Open conversations around these topics help your partners know what to expect, allowing them to be strategic in how they support you while assisting their ongoing efforts to sustain workflow and manage staffing levels. Just as importantly, transparency promotes trust, strengthening your partnership for the post-Covid era.

4. Be strategic.

Now is the time to think longer term. We recognize that’s easier said than done – many organizations are still in crisis management mode and reacting to new situations as they arrive or evolve. But regardless of the scale of your company, institution, or organization, lifting your eyes up from the road will present a major advantage when our societies and economies begin to heal and rebuild.

For our commercial and nonprofit clients alike, the environment will be even more fiercely competitive than ever. How to connect with audiences, how to retain and grow market share, how to drive revenue and financial support, and how to demonstrate your resilience, relevance, and vibrancy will be even more pressing questions. Agency partners are uniquely suited to provide strategic, creative answers.

5. Be purposeful.

Finally, as leaders at any level – organizations, teams, or projects – you’re facing a host of difficult decisions, many of which you’ll have to make with limited data about what the future will hold. As you do, it will be more important than ever to look to your guiding principles and the values that drive your mission. Who are your most essential audiences? Where can you have the most impact? How can your offerings or team be reconfigured to deliver value in ways you haven’t considered? What can you do that’s right for this moment?

In some cases, defining that purpose will be the first step. In others, the challenge will be shaping the vision, choosing the right approach, designing its expression and experience, or building and deploying a solution. Whether your need is strategic, creative, or technical, having candid conversations with aligned agency partners will help you amplify the reach or impact of your work, and will lay the foundation for you to step purposefully forward.

All our best to you, your families and friends, and your colleagues.

About the project

This series of articles shares what we've learned from 20 years of working with clients. Whether you’re a CMO or a project manager, the Client Handbook will help you find the right agency and deliver value for your organization.