Content agencies Part 3: The right model

Content agencies Part 3: The right model





Content agencies Part 3: The right model


Tony Hallett
Managing director

Tony set up Collective Content in 2011 so brands can more easily become publishers and tell stories. This built on 15 years in media, from reporter to publishing director at Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive.

Again we return to the question of ‘What makes a great agency?’ after recommending the best agencies in the content business specialise on content and that they work openly with clients. In this post, we look at agency models and what each type offers.

In the content business, the industry seems to be settling on four models, not including in-house as a model, as seen with brand newsrooms, for example.

Large agencies. These are the big name agencies, usually owned by a global conglomerate, each unit with hundreds of staff. When they say they provide content, they do – as well as media buying services, PR, SEO, design/build, market research and all manner of digital options.

Freelancers. Whether hired directly by a brand or through another agency, this approach sees some projects and assignments are delivered solely by a talented individual.

Platforms. These are the likes of Contently and Skyword. They are like eBays of content – matching those commissioning and those producing content. They are transaction engines, more so than agencies, and many freelancers showcase their work on these services.

Boutique agencies. These are smaller than large agency units but more than a group of freelancers. They are common in content marketing, specialising in types of content (for example, white papers or video) or sectors.

Now each of these has its pros and cons. Putting our cards on the table, Collective Content falls into the last category as a boutique agency, specialising in B2B technology (mostly!). And here’s our thinking…
Large agencies, as their structure suggests, will be able to do most things for any client. But you’ll pay for that scope, pedigree and fancy offices. But the world’s biggest brands often feel comfortable working with the biggest agencies. We get that.

Some of the large agencies, we should also say, regularly source experts by using boutique agencies, lone freelancers or even platforms. They don’t like to shout about that. And it doesn’t chime well with the openness we discussed in Part 2.

Meanwhile freelancers are some of the most hard-working experts you can find. That’s why we work with quite a few at any one time. Agencies can provide freelancers with support and ensure content quality control as well as decent pay and regular work.

Platforms are increasingly popular. Certainly the venture capitalists backing the big ones are counting on that. But don’t expect any TLC when it comes to the content. Check the guarantees – if any – that are provided around quality of work. You may well find it’s a case of caveat emptor – buyer beware.

Finally, boutique agencies also have their downsides. You should receive an expert, high-touch experience but won’t get a broad range of services from them and they won’t be as keenly priced as freelancers.
But Collective Content is proof that this last model can work for all parties. As we’ve written about before, a scalable boutique model solves the problem of finding the right talent. Meanwhile we’re not as expensive as large agencies but increasingly big global brands are comfortable working this way.

To be sure, many organisations will use a mixture of the four approaches we’ve talked about here, as well as some in-house content creation, also for good reasons.

We’re on a mission to make sure companies do content in the right way for their needs, whatever way that is.

Follow us on Twitter – @ColContent