In the agency world, it is sometimes tempting to believe that if our clients left us alone to give them our best work, we could deliver big results, have more fun, win awards and become the envy of our competitors. It is not unusual for a group of creative people to believe that everything is better when they are unleashed to let their creative energy change the world according to their imaginations.
Likewise, as a client, we are sometimes tempted to believe that the most effective use of our time is to call up the agency and after a “thorough” 10-minute brief. After which we can turn our backs away for two weeks and enjoy the fruits of the agency’s labor when they deliver the perfect work for us on the first try.
Fortunately, we all know better.
Even more than most other areas of marketing, great video work requires a team effort. Which means a team created from both the agency AND the client.
Dear Client, You Have a Role to Play. Actually, there are Four Roles.
While we think it's very important to educate our clients on what we do and our process, even if you didn’t know anything about how our team works, we know we can deliver great work when our clients are organized for success. To do that, there are FOUR key roles that you should identify with your team to ensure you get the best work from your agency. Even if you are a small team and some people take up more than one role, it will still help to be aware of the responsibilities you have as a client and maintain discipline through to the end of your project.
The Project Manager
The Project Manager is the one person who drives the project and the workflow on the client side. They should be responsible for educating the agency on brand guidelines, objectives, and specs, and coordinating deliverables from their team such as revisions, required props (i.e., product samples, and any actors who might be from within the client company). The Project Manager is engaged with the agency from start to finish and making things happen.
Pro tip: If you are reading this, you just might be the project manager!
The Approver, like the Project Manager, needs to be a solo role. Just one will do. One person has final decision-making authority and final sign off. Your approver has the final decision-making ability on anything that comes up throughout the process. For example, if somebody on your team thinks that a male character in your video should be a female character, and there is a split decision, your approver is going to be the arbiter to make the final decision. On the other hand, if your Project Manager and the rest of the team are in agreement, then you don't need to bother your approver with every question from the agency.
Ideally, there are no more than three people who provide feedback during reviews. In a perfect world, even fewer (thus, the reluctant “s” on the paragraph title)! However, the reality of large matrixed organizations generates pressure to have as many as 15-20. Feel free to use this article to hold the line at five – or you will regret it. Reviewers are usually stakeholders with something vested in the project, or perhaps an internal subject matter expert who can validate the accuracy of communications. Reviewers are responsible for escalating objections to the Approver and make recommendations as appropriate. Reviewers are going to review milestones such as the script, storyboard, and versions of the video. They will be looking for mistakes (off-brand, off-message type of oversight). And they're going to escalate their objections to the Project Manager, and if everybody's in agreement with the reviewer, the PM will make the change. But if there's a debate about the proposed change, then the Approver needs to be brought in to make that final decision. They cannot veto a decision made by the Approver, who is empowered to ignore the Reviewers recommendations if they feel they won’t improve the project.
"Participants" provide input to the project. They are not reviewers. If needed, they can only escalate objections to the Project Manager. Why the quotation marks for this role? Well, the participant doesn't have much of a say in anything. But you're giving them the opportunity to participate, perhaps because they are a customer, a client or someone who's put some money into the video. While they don't have the authority to make changes or approve anything, you want them to give their feedback and feel like they're a part of the process.
The Benefits of Defined Roles
To recap, you should have just ONE Project Manager and ONE Approver. There will be one to five Reviewers and one to five Participants as well. But, keep it as small as possible if you can and avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen. Imagine if there were no roles – your agency would not know when all the comments have been captured, when to begin the edits, or even what edits are approved and worthy of consideration. The bottom line in this scenario is that you will either overspend or endanger the video quality if you have a fixed budget of hours or reviews with the agency.
So, by setting these roles up in advance, you’ll save yourself the inevitable drama of varying egos and internal competitiveness. And you're going to keep the project moving quickly, which is important in every scenario involving a video. Time is of the essence. Setting up your roles in advance, monitoring everyone’s interactions and keeping everyone in their roles will set you up for success with your agency.