The news of Anthony Scaramucci’s sacking as White House communications director after only ten days certainly grabbed the attention of us here at New Narrative. The drama at the White House is second only to that in the new series of Game of Thrones (never fear, this article is spoiler free) as we catch up over the morning’s first cup of coffee.
But once the shock had worn off, the discussion turned to the soundness of the move. The ‘Mooch’ may have only been in place for less time than it takes to learn how to spell his name correctly, but after his expletive filled rant in the New Yorker, it was clear this appointment was not a good fit and better to end it sooner than later.
And — tenuous link alert — it’s a lesson that CMOs can learn from.
Here at New Narrative we’ve lost track of the amount of conversations we have with marketers who struggle to make the most of relationships with their external partners and providers, including content agencies. Sometimes they have difficulty accessing the right people or expertise, or are sold a programme or campaign that fails in the execution phase; other times there are fundamental quality issues or the agency struggles to understand their business model or goals.
But despite months, and sometimes years, of wasted time, money and opportunities, there is at times reticence by CMOs to jettison practices, and agencies, that are repeatedly failing to deliver. That may seem a surprise when so much is at stake but inertia is not just limited to the customer experience – it’s a powerful force on companies when it comes to managing their marketing and agency relationships.
The reasons are understandable and are the same ones that lead us to put up with bad customer service from banks and mobile providers. Relationships or systems may seem too embedded to move on, or too much hassle to change. But if you’re a CMO it’s important to remember you are a customer, and that agencies and external partners can and should be held to account for the way they interact with you, and what they deliver.
From our perspective, when evaluating content agency relationships here are some of the key questions you should be asking:
- Is this a genuine partnership — does the agency view the successes or failures of your content-driven marketing initiatives as their own?
- Has the agency taken the time to understand your strategic and commercial goals and craft an overarching programme or narrative that supports those aims?
- Does the agency help you navigate challenges and setbacks, whether they come from changes in the market environment or internal processes?
- Has the agency helped you build a content pipeline and to keep it on track?
- Is the agency producing content you are proud to publish?
If the answer to more than one or two of these questions is ‘no’, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship — either through a ‘reboot’ that reassesses communication processes and goals or targets, or by simply moving on. There are arguably not too many good lessons that can be drawn from the Trump White House, but one is that when someone who’s hired to communicate on your behalf isn’t doing so effectively, inertia is not the answer.