I was sitting in a meeting the other day listening to a woman speak about her dissatisfaction regarding a previous agency she had tapped to handle the advertising and public relations needs for her company. Her chief complaint was feeling that her company was not the number one priority of the agency. She further explained that there didn't seem to be any type of consistent project management system in place, and as a result, projects weren't completed when promised.
Project management is a major problem for many advertising and PR agencies, yet implementing a few tidy processes may contain this beast. Organization is the key to client satisfaction. Without it, chaos will most likely ensue, offices will be less productive and client work will suffer.
If you're considering hiring an agency, freelancer, publicist, web designer, or any other creative professional consider the following:
How do they currently manage their clients' projects? Is it just an informal system of emails, post-it notes and white board scribbling? That's a sign of impending disaster. Look for an agency with a clearly defined, formal project management system.
Do they explain the stages of the project so you have a complete understanding of the process prior to the creation and implementation? Even if you have no idea how a website is built or a campaign is executed, a good agency puts you in control and arms you with knowledge, while at the same time guiding you with their expertise.
As projects are created, do they offer opportunities to review and provide feedback along the way… or only at the end? A good agency will clearly outline when your input will be needed, and when various other key checkpoints will occur.
What is their success rate for staying on-time and on-budget? Great agencies under promise and over deliver, over quote and under bill. Of course, that doesn't mean you should expect for your project to always come in at or under what you were quoted (especially if you made big changes along the way, or asked for a shift in direction), but run for the hills if history shows that their projects are more often than not over budget.
Had our client's original agency implemented a solid project management system, they might not have lost the business. (Lucky for us, they did.) While the creativity of an agency’s work is important, the often overlooked and seemingly boring project management system is perhaps even more vital.
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