When it comes to agencies, there is an alternative to divorce

New marketing heads like nothing better than a good pitch – sweeping out the old and bringing in new blood. When I took on my current role, I sought to resist this temptation and, as regular readers will know, shuffled the pack on the creative side only a couple of months ago.

The Secret Marketer

But a change of leader, as with a change of strategy, requires a reassessment of the agency team. When I started in this role, although I was happy to keep things ticking over on the creative side, the relationship with our PR agency was, at best, tired. We had worked together for a long time and while there were strong horizontal ties, the reality was that everything had become tame and samey.

Having assessed the situation, we decided enough was enough and we had to part company. The agency just did not have the energy or ideas that we needed at that time. I got my head of marketing services to tell the agency the bad news and we prepared to run a pitch for a replacement PR agency.

But it was at this point that said agency refused to go quietly. The chairman of its parent company, whom I had never met, called and asked me to hold fire. He explained that they had under-invested in our relationship over the years and were willing to change the entire agency team – in effect, to appoint a new agency, with new people and ideas – while keeping the same name.

This was a difficult call. Psychologically, I had prepared myself for a pitch process, but at the same time I was taken with the chairman’s commitment. What he said – while relying on a huge amount of trust from us – was appealing, given the inconvenience that a full pitch would entail.

To cut a long story short, we stuck with the agency but with a complete change of personnel. The chairman kept his word. He and I speak regularly and last month we awarded that PR agency our internal ‘agency of the year’ award on the back of our best year for media coverage.

As Tammy Wynette never said, when it comes to agencies, there is an alternative to D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

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