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How To Handle Working With Other Agencies

Chances are – at one time or the other – you have had to deal with other parties to get stuff done. When I worked in a creative agency for a big corporate client, we would often work with their external comms team (read: advertising agency) and it was easy for both agencies to get on the defensive, guard their work and let the meeting completely disintegrate.

But new years are for clean slates. Time to put that inter-agency rivalry to bed! Here are a few tips on how to handle working with the other agency:

01 – Establish better ways of working from the outset

This should be the first step towards a better (functional) relationship. And if you want, bring the client along to keep tempers in check. Here are some questions to help create better guidelines to work to:

  • Who is responsible for what (assign roles, specific jobs and aspects of the project)
  • What methods will you use to increase collaboration and communication?
  • What is the best presentation and meeting etiquette?

02 – Learn from each other

Instead of solely viewing the other party as your opposition, consider this project an opportunity to learn from them. They will undoubtedly have a different skillset, processes and methodologies to yours. You could:

  • Organise a time to share. A quick presentation of your respective skillsets, is a great way of finding out each other’s specific areas of expertise
  • If you’re pressed for time, I always find Pecha Kucha talks a great format, or even condensed version of a TED talk (20 minutes maximum)

03 – Socialise

It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but it’s worth taking the time out to get to know the team from the other side, outside of the work environment. Do you only see them across the meeting room table, with furrowed brows and frowning faces? Maybe you need to wine and dine each other, find out a little more about them on a personal level. This human interaction – out of the daily context of the work environment – will help diffuse any pent-up tension. Use the opportunity to network and be professional – after all, it’s a small world and what goes around, comes around.

04 – Play to your strengths

For example, if you’re an architecture firm and your specialty lies in the exteriors, don’t try to do the branding or the comms. By ensuring both agencies stick to their respective strengths you will make sure you’re not stretched for resources, out of your depth and cutting the other’s lunch.

05 – Go the extra mile

If you do actually have the capability to do the whole project and the client is unaware of this, it’s time to up the game a notch. Have you ever heard the saying “Go the extra mile: it’s never crowded”? It completely applies here. For instance:

  • Are they only expecting one concept? What about creating two?
  • Deliver early and delight them
  • Keep them in the loop throughout the process
  • Invite them to be a part of the process (you’ll be surprised by how many agencies don’t do this)

06 – Use your leverage

If you’ve worked with this particular client before (and the other agency is relatively new) you might have a distinct advantage. You know the way they think and hence can manage their expectations better.


07 – Take charge

You want to make sure you’re always on the front foot. Where possible: host meetings at your location, (you’ll be more comfortable in your natural surroundings, about to control the elements), initiate meetings, work-in-progress check-ins. Be proactive, not reactive.

07 – Don’t vent

They may be the most annoying agency partner in the world – but voicing this out loud will serve no purpose. Bad-mouthing, no matter WHERE you are is never a good idea. If you’re surrounded by your peers or colleagues it’s unprofessional – and in public you can be overheard. Venting will only put you in a bad mood and create bad karma. Try and put the frustration back into the work, into round two, into delivering the best possible result you can.


Follow the tips above to achieve a better working relationship with your project partners. What are some of the ways you handle working with others?

Our #HowToHandle series deals with tough workplace issues, providing handy tips on how to manage them, deflect potential situations, and always come away with the best case for your business. If you found this article useful, share the love (use the hashtag!) or let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Mallika Goel
Mallika Goel is the communications manager at WorkflowMax, fresh from the agency world. She brings with her four years of experience working with some of New Zealand’s largest brands as well as more boutique ones. She thinks life’s too short to do one thing, so she keeps herself busy pursuing her many interests: an obsessive love of writing/blogging, fitness, travelling and design.

Mallika Goel