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Why ‘resilience’ is the most important team-performance metric during times of crisis

By Leah Power, EVP Strategic Operations Consultant at the Institute of Communication Agencies

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak has led to a stronger focus on how team behaviours will change over time and, especially, on the ability of teams of people to respond to a crisis.

In the day-to-day business world, crises come in all shapes and sizes. From a ‘storm in a teacup’ local market supply chain event to the full-on, global disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic we are now battling. However, the fundamental team behaviours required in times of crisis, are the same whether the stimulus is global or local, big or small. Marketers and their communication partners must be prepared and equipped to respond rapidly and effectively.

To explore this further Aprais, the global leader in maximising client-agency team and individual performance, interrogated its database of over 21,000 client-agency evaluations covering the past 20 years. This enabled Aprais to combine a series of scores to create a single ‘resilience’ metric, then to track and compare this behaviour against other traits in their database.

That’s valuable because the COVID-19 crisis has accentuated the importance of ‘resilience’ as a new team-performance standard that deserves more attention from marketing and agency leaders.

How ‘resilient’ are client and agency teams?

The research mapped the agency evaluation of client resilience compared to the overall evaluation scores for the past 20 years. Aprais found little difference in the two. This is hardly surprising. After all, paying clients are in the driving seat of a relationship and, in an industry now dominated by performance-based payments, agencies are often cautious to be over-critical of client behaviour.

However, the client scores of agencies paint a different picture. The resilience score is consistently lower (weaker) than the overall agency performance scores, on average 3.5% lower. This presents an opportunity for agencies to better prepare for crises. Stronger performance in resilience would enhance the overall client view of the agency going forward.

Regional differences

Different markets and regions exhibit varied scoring tendencies when it comes to client agency evaluations – some consistently scoring more generously than others.

In terms of regional differences, some top-line observations include: in Europe, Middle East and Africa, there is less confidence from clients in the resilience of agencies; in the Asia-Pacific region, overall agency performance and the scores around resilience seem unaffected even through sustained periods of financial security; on the contrary, in the Americas (typically the highest scoring region) marketers see more resilience in their agencies than other regions, irrespective of financial security; in the past 10 years, resilience scores have improved relative to overall performance.

Are media agencies more resilient than creative?

The analysis suggests that media agencies are considered more resilient than creative agencies – and this is particularly evident in regions renowned for tougher evaluations.

Aprais believes that this may simply be because media is more data-driven, financially-linked, and therefore easier for marketers to quantify when they review campaigns.

Digital agencies often span the media-creative divide – they achieve resilience scores between media and creative.

How to be more resilient

Kim Walker, the Chairman of Aprais, says: “By comparing scores for the most, and least, resilient marketers and agencies we can quickly see areas of potential for improvement. In times of crisis, both parties need to be able to challenge one another. This means using initiative to evolve the status quo, to challenge others in a positive way, and to manage conflict openly and constructively rather than letting it fester. Based on our research and analysis we can offer 10 practical tips for clients and agencies to be more resilient.”

Ten tips for resilient clients

  1. Ensure approval procedures are clear, swift and final.
  2. Provide timely feedback and approval at every stage, guaranteeing speed-to-market deliveries.
  3. Deliver a single point of accountability that provides clear, swift and final approvals at each stage.
  4. Acknowledge changes in direction and the impact on the scope of work.
  5. Foster a spirit of partnership and teamwork with the agency.
  6. Keep the agency team up to date on client strategy and business challenges.
  7. Stay open-minded to innovative thinking and new opportunities.
  8. Align and facilitate integrated workflows across all partner agencies and internal teams.
  9. Demonstrate flexibility to provide best possible solution given time and budget constraints.
  10. Allow an agency to re-prioritize deliverables when a request for change may impact the current workload.

Ten tips for resilient agencies

  1. Be readily accessible, responsive and willing to go above and beyond to deliver results.
  2. Proactively suggest new initiatives and communications approaches.
  3. Communicate changes to team structure promptly and clearly.
  4. Work in an integrated and collaborative ways with other agencies.
  5. Provide estimates promptly to ensure fast client turn around.
  6. Continuously improve processes and procedures for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
  7. Demonstrate flexibility to revise strategy and longer-term recommendations to fit changing business needs.
  8. Demonstrate concern for all those involved in a crisis.
  9. Remains calm and professional throughout.
  10. Take a leadership role with client to create a cross-functional team that identifies actionable steps to react to key market trends.

Following these steps as closely as possible will become increasingly important as the measurement, monitoring and development of ‘resilience’ behaviours becomes more prevalent in the marketing industry, providing opportunities for agencies and clients to prepare for the future and to respond, as a team, to crises – large or small.

The Marketing Relationship Pulse report, produced in a partnership between the ICA and Aprais, in collaboration with A2C, also provides excellent insights into the relationship between clients and agencies in Canada, especially in terms of highlighting the perception gaps that exist between them in important areas such as leadership, strategy, remuneration and talent. The findings of this report can be used by brand marketers and agency client leads to start much needed conversations leading to improved trust, transparency and better team resiliency. You can access the report here.

And connect with Aprais Principal, Kathryn Fitzwilliam, to learn more about maximising the impact of the client-agency team and their customizable evaluations to improve your relationships. Click here to view the Aprais video presentation on ‘resilience’.

Aprais are a partner of the Institute of Communication Agencies. Report on Marketing is where leading Canadian agencies showcase their insights, cutting-edge research and client successes. The Report on Marketing provides a valuable source of thought leadership for Canadian marketers to draw inspiration from. Find more articles like this at the Report on Marketing.

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