Thursday, September 20, 2007

12 Keys to Working with a Pro Bono Agency

A new friend of mine asked me to jot down 12 (why twelve?) things to think about when working with a pro-bono agency. If you are thinking of going the pro-bono route to help you with marketing and branding, here is a starter list of 12 things to consider - in no particular order.

Full disclaimer: International Rescue Committee is working with draftfcb. The relationship is amazing, and pre-dated my arrival.

1. What is the motivation of the agency? (i.e. why are they doing this - if it is one person's passion - watch out - if that person leaves, what happens next?).

2. Define what sort of relationship you want. Talk to them and see what is a better fit - strategic branding and consulting or tactical help (ie.. designing web sites and developing technology). Either way, make it clear right away.

3. Utilize additional services to fill your own gaps - think of things like project management, research and media buying/planning.

4. Get your Senior management support before trying any re-branding. My CEO is very serious about our re-branding project - and with his help, the rest of the management team (and board) is enthusiastic. Get buy in from the top dog.

5. Once you get the CEO's buy in, make absolutely sure that you get the board chairperson's full support. Really - you'll need it when you are forced with hard branding questions.

6. Be prepared to tell the agency NO.. we cannot do that! They will come up with really creative ideas that simply won't work. Teach them.

7. Insist that the team be assigned like a paying client (defined team members and roles) and have them TRAVEL and see programs up close. makes all the difference in the world and makes a lot of sense.

8. Make them do tons of research and talk to staff as much as they talk to donors. Any good agency would actually insist on this.

9. Pray the agency has done at least a little work with NGO's before... if not, you'll spend a ton of energy explaining why non-profit marketing is different. It's different in important, subtle ways. Selling cell phones or diapers is different than selling a cause - and the measurement of success is different too - donations aren't sales figures.

10. Listen to what they are saying - if you get the right agency - they are EXPERTS. Listen and be willing to go places that are uncomfortable in order to create break through branding. I recently sent an e-mail that didn't include the new tagline and they called me out on it which I really appreciated.

11. Provide tons of education to staff at all levels - ESPECIALLY middle management. It's not enough to get seniro staff to buy in, you'll need the entire organization to be true believers.

12. Spend some bucks and roll the new brand out in a big way once you are ready.

Got any of your own tips?

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