Businesses often need to outsource work to creative agencies. Google makes searching for agencies relatively easy, but if you’re new to creative recruitment, then the vetting, briefing, and pitching process can be an overwhelming experience. Fear not! We’ve drafted a creative recruitment guide to highlight some of the most important attributes you should be looking out for when approaching agencies to work with.
Why use an agency at all?
There are many benefits to using creative design agencies, which outweigh employing a permanent member of staff or using a freelancer.
Creative agencies exist to provide specialist skills and knowledge. They can be used temporarily to fulfill recruitment gaps, or as long-term strategic partners helping businesses to achieve operational success and business objectives. As the name suggests, creative agencies are highly creative and are able to invent ways to connect brands with audiences through highly engaging content and experiences. Choosing the right agency – one that understands your brand – is easy if you look for the following:
Your guide to creative recruitment
Assist with defining objectives
Knowing what you want to achieve is easy; defining how you achieve this is the hard part. For some objectives, like increasing website conversions, it’s simpler to recognise that a plan around enhancing the user experience must be formulated. But, if you’re completely at a loss and don’t know how to achieve something then look for an agency that offers consultancy, who will be happy to discuss plans and work with you to formulate ideas. An experienced agency will be able to backup suggestions put forward, with proven outcomes.
Project management & communication
It’s important that the agency you choose are excellent communicators. Not only should they be able to clearly convey their plans, they must also be able to internally manage their projects so they can readily provide you with an update.
Are you looking for diversity and creative flair? Then multi-disciplinary agencies are a must. If they don’t have the specialist skills in-house they should be able to call upon the expertise of subcontractors and specialist freelancers when required. Having an established network of talent is also a good indication of their ability to manage, communicate and retain talent.
Ethos & Culture
If you’ve got agencies that have made it onto your shortlist, investigate them further by scrutinising their blogs, website, and social media profiles to determine whether their culture, personalities, and professionalism is aligned to your business. Agencies that appear to be one big happy family probably are, and happy teams will be more committed and more productive.
Design agencies that offer a range of services will generally be more creative. They should be using creativity and technology to develop new ideas, stay fresh and ensure that designs are engaging. Steer clear of one trick ponies. If portfolios don’t reflect a diverse range of skills and designs, they’re likely to fail at making your brand more distinctive.
Make sure skills are aligned to what you want to achieve. A graphic designer specialising in print may not be able to develop amazing apps for you so make sure you are familiar with the various design disciplines and have some knowledge of the different technologies before proceeding.
Animation: Transforming 2D or 3D designs into moving images for films or presentations.
Video production & editing: May include the scripting, filming and editing of films to be used as corporate case studies, company updates, or for live events.
App development: The development of apps or applications is a specialist skill because the success of apps relies heavily on the development of user interfaces (UI). Therefore the user experience (UX) should be at the heart of the design process. Knowledge of both are paramount for digital projects.
Digital design: This relates to producing content specifically for digital platforms. This may includes web content, large LED screens or specialist presentations.
3D design: Design are in 3D and are typically for use on digital platforms and applications. Knowledge of specialist 3D software is a must.
A strong portfolio
The best way to assess an agency is through their work. Examine available portfolios making a note of the different skills that have been employed for each project. Investigate the clients they have worked with and find out what services they used. Don’t be tempted to go with agencies with the biggest brand names. If the projects look large then the chances are the budget was too. This isn’t ideal if you’re trying to create high impact on a small budget.
If you like the look of an agency ask for more examples of their work. A lot of agencies work with clients under a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) permitting them from publishing details about projects, but they may be able to share information with prospective clients.
What makes them tick
It’s important for creatives to keep up to date about creative processes, trends and technology, so make sure there’s evidence of this. If there isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask them. Use social media to examine what they share, like and the types of articles they’re reading. Do you like what inspires and motivates them?
Agencies should have a clear specialism. For example, SomeBrightSpark are experts in live events production and creative content design so make sure the agency’s specialism is well suited to your aims and objectives. Ask yourself if their skills can add value to your business.
Although they’re specialists they must also have a good understanding of the wider marketing mix. For example they must be able to demonstrate how their work can tie into other marketing activities that your business is doing.
Creativity is a must
In competitive marketing climates, creativity is vital. Agencies must be able to come up with fresh approaches and creative ideas enabling you to standout from the competition. Examine what agencies say about creativity, how they use it, and assess how this drives their them. Although creativity is subjective and largely down to personal taste, true creatives will think creatively to communicate with your audience. Ask for examples and get them to discuss ideas with you. Encourage them to think outside the box. Sometimes, a discussion about creativity can open many doors and provide different ways of achieving things more effectively.
Ask about approaches
When working with agencies, one thing that infuriates clients is not being able to discuss ideas with the creative teams. If agencies insist on running everything through an account handler make your preferences known at the start of the project to ensure you get dedicated time with designers.
Interrogate agencies about their work ethic and approach. Are they happy to pitch for work? Are they willing to chase you for a detailed understanding of your requirements before they bring ideas to the table? If so, you’re on to a good thing. Be wary of agencies that don’t continually ask questions about your brand and query things. Remember than knowledge is power and only an inquisitive agency will be able to produce ideas that are completely in tune with your aims.
It’s not unreasonable to expect the best. If you start working with an agency that don’t continually go the extra mile, provide quality work, give timely updates, need constant chasing and can’t work within budget: find an agency that can. An efficient agency should be able to manage your expectations and then exceed them over and over again.
There is no exact science to creative recruitment and finding an agency can be a lengthy process. Be prepared to fully vet agencies before they make it onto your short list. This will help you find high quality agencies that will amaze you at the pitching stage.
Finally, you may have reasons for choosing a design agency that aren’t quantifiable. It’s OK to follow your gut instinct. Just remember that agencies should be inspiring, creative thinkers and effective at managing teams as well as your expectations.