How to get a referral for a great content agency

Two people meeting over coffee. Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

How to get a referral for a great content agency





How to get a referral for a great content agency


Andrew Smith

Andrew has worked in business writing and public relations for 20 years, creating content and managing communications for organisations including RICS, Clifford Chance, Eversheds and Taylor Wessing. At PwC for a decade, he specialised in human resource consulting services.

Be greedy and sceptical.

Greedy, because you want to gather as much information from as many sources as you can. Remember, this process is generally free, so if you skimp on it and come a cropper later, that’s on you.

You can look on LinkedIn, to see what agencies say about themselves. Or you can ask colleagues or contacts who have worked with certain agencies or worked on similar projects.

Look at the work that prospective agencies have done and try to persuade shortlisted (or longlisted) agencies to put you in touch with clients they have worked for – recent clients, if possible, because people leave and areas of focus change.

During this process of gathering information and ideas (the process can be highly structured with milestone meetings and a clear timetable, or not), constantly reflect and ask yourself what you want the agency to do. Do you want them to take lots of work off your hands, make you look good in presentations, provide thought leadership, or merely enhance and tidy up the thoughts that are replete but untamed in your organisation?

Then be sceptical. If a colleague verbally recommends Fred at Agency Co., it might be because that they like Fred, or Fred is married to their cousin, or Fred got them out of a tight corner 10 years ago (not to be underestimated, of course). It may be that Agency Co. always delivers projects on time and its presentation is impeccable. If that’s what you want, then maybe Agency Co. is for you. If you want that agency to bring ideas, stretch the subject matter experts in your organisation, and challenge existing ways of working, you’d better check that Agency Co. can do those things as well.

Do you want global coverage, the ability to have work done 24/7, strong design elements, a flair for media-friendly content, or more lead-generating work? What level and granularity of reporting are your bosses going to want to see? Do you want the agency to assist with marketing automation or is that something you’re on top of internally? A mismatch of needs and skills at this point can mean a year or more of pain and going nowhere, easily.

Find someone whose work and approach you respect. If you can get them to sit down with you for an hour and go into detail about a challenge they faced and how a particular agency helped them solve it, that’s more useful than a casual recommendation. It shows they care. And what you learn will help you ask more detailed and probing questions of potential agencies and your own colleagues too, to better clarify and understand your own organisation’s needs.

Again, check time frames. If everyone has left the agency since that work was done, it may not be the same force it once was.

To recap: be greedy when doing your homework, be sceptical about what you find out.

Interested in learning more? Collective Content has prepared a guide called “How to choose a content agency,” which is the most comprehensive resource you’ll find on this subject: what to look for, questions to ask, how you’ll work together and much more. Download it here and get in touch if you’re ready to begin your agency journey.