How to turn your outside partners into your personal brand builders

As an executive at Turner I had the power to hire and fire agencies and consultants. I would hammer them on cost and then swell up with pride. It was a game to me and I felt like the better I played it, the more I’d be valued. That was the lie I told myself. In reality, they were doing great work for me and in turn I was discounting them.

If you have the attitude that your vendors are lucky to be working for you or they should be kowtowing to your every whim, now is the time to change your ways. Why? For two reasons: 1) they are your link to the outside world and, 2) they could be your ticket to stardom.

There’s an old adage in the agency business: “You’re only as good as your client.” Be a good client and you’ll get great work that builds your personal brand.

Here are five things you can do right now to get the best out of your creative partners courtesy of Rick Heffner, owner of Fuszion Design.

1) Write A Solid Brief

Make sure it contains a project description, objectives, target audience, unique selling proposition, key benefits of your product/service, support of claims, look and feel, brand personality and a realistic budget and timeline.

2) Search For The Right Partner

Don’t hire someone because they’ll give you a deal. Conduct a proper search and make sure that the outside partner that you choose is well suited for the project and that your work styles are a good match.

3) Stick To The Timeline

If your vendor doesn’t have all the necessary assets (logos, photos, charts, graphs, copy, etc.), they can’t possibly begin your project or meet your deadlines. It’s like cooking Chinese food — you have to prep everything before you put the fire under the pot.

4) Don’t Over Analyze, Go With Your Gut

Your mother-in-law is not your art director. If you get too many people involved in decision-making, you’ll likely end up with something unremarkable. Great ideas don’t come from a hodgepodge of opinions — they come from instincts and insights.

5) Communicate Disappointments Respectfully

If something doesn’t go well, don’t be passive/aggressive. Instead, pick up the phone and communicate how you feel using the “sandwich method.” First say something complementary, then sandwich in your criticism, then say something positive again. Like a sandwich, it leaves people with a much better taste in their mouth.

Don’t try to control or intimidate outside partners. You’ll tarnish your personal brand and never get the results you want.

Last week one of my clients made the same mistake I used to make years ago.  He called me to haggle over a small charge.  Our contract clearly stated that he owed me the money, but he wanted to dispute it nonetheless. He claimed it would make him feel better if he could shave off my overtime. I told him that it was his call. He ended up paying my bill minus the charge. I wonder if he thinks he won that round or if his boss patted him on the back for saving the company a few bucks. Either way, his personal brand is tarnished in my book.

Make a vow not to play small with your agencies, vendors and consultants. One day you may need them for a recommendation — and reputations tend to linger.