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A designer fit – how to get the most from your creative agency 

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A designer fit – how to get the most from your creative agency 

Across the world, the appetite for all things ‘Made in Britain’ continues to prove strong and it’s not just our products that are being snapped up – demand for British design is also booming.

The UK now has the second-largest design sector in the world and the largest design industry in Europe. So, for any business in need of creative support, it’s a great place to start your search for an agency partner.

Like a favoured pair of shoes, or those trusted jeans, finding a creative agency is about finding the right ‘fit’. That means a team that you feel comfortable with and that brings out the best in you. One that compliments your own working style and ethos; that understands the pressures and challenges you are under; and that communicates well, so you know you are always in safe hands.

Get the partnership right and it can be a beautiful thing. But like any relationship, it’s a two-way street. To achieve the best results takes time and an investment in the relationship from both sides.
To help you supercharge the process, here we’ve pulled together our 3 top tips for achieving that all important designer fit.

1.  Choose the right agency to begin with

An agency may tick all the boxes on paper, but just as important as their experience and skills set, is how they interact with you and make you feel. Never underestimate your gut instinct here.

Flashy websites and polished sales pitches are one thing, but digging deeper is the key to finding a good fit. You need anagency that you can trust and feel confident in. They should help make your life easier, not cause you extra stress. If you have existing supplier relationships that are working well, try and pinpoint what it is that makes them so successful.

If you haven’t got an agency yet and you’re not sure where to start your search, then ask for recommendations from your peers.

You need to give some consideration to size too. Do you prefer a large agency with vast resources, or want to be a big fish in a small pond? Both options can have their benefits. If you’re a business with rapid growth plans, then always check that any agency you work with can scale up with you.

Also check that what you think you’re buying into, is what you’re actually getting. Ask who will be looking after your account day-to-day. You need to know you will have good chemistry with them. Hitting it off with the pitching team – who may just be sent out as they’re good at winning new business – isn’t going to help you moving forward.

2.  Discuss and agree logistics from the start

Now you’ve chosen an agency, you need to agree how it’s all going to work.

The relationship and project management process will flow far more smoothly if you set realistic expectations from the beginning. This should include a discussion over timeframes, budgets and what results you are seeking.

One top tip here is to try and have just one internal project lead, who can act as the main point of contact between yourself and the agency. They should be a strong go betweenand someone who is great at communication and time keeping.

With all the new digital tools that are now available, there are endless ways that teams can share and collaborate on projects. Make the most of such technology, to save yourself time and help keep everything transparent and in one place.

Also, make sure you have an approval process outlined before any work gets underway, so there are no hidden obstacles or delays when you get stuck in.

3.   Good briefs lead to great results

Providing a good brief is vital, but doing so is not always as easy as it sounds. Here are some pointers:

  • Brief only when you’re fully prepared – Have a plan and know what you want and why. Outline the end goal. Define the key messaging you want including and make sure everyone is aiming towards the same objective.
  • Brief in person wherever possible – Now we know this isn’t always possible, but especiallyin the beginning of a new relationship, it can be beneficial to brief in person. Emails can easily be misinterpreted. In person, it’s far easier to question, explore and confirm details, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Show instead oftell – If you struggle to express the style, look or feel you are after then make use of all the tools you have at your fingertips. The internet is your friend and can offer a solution here.
  • Let your creatives be, well, creative – You don’t need to come up with a complete concept for your design team (that’s why you have them on board!). They are there to help bring your vision to life. One small caveat here, there’s letting them be creative and there’s not handing over enough information in the beginning. Give a detailed enough brief to set them on the right track, then enough freedom to have ideas.
  • Remember – designersare not mind readers – no matter how good they may be! Even if an agency has worked with your company for years, they will still need a clear brief every time.

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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