During our corporate panel session at micebook EXPO last week, attendees heard from corporate event heads who shared insights into what they look for in an agency.
Founder of The Event Strategist and former VP and global head of event strategy at SAP, Nicola Kastner, was joined by Laura Weyler, global head of events at Copper Technologies and Mona Krishna, director of marketing event strategy at SAP, for an interactive session on ‘Mastering Corporate and Agency Partnerships in Event Management’.
Here’s some of the key takeaways…
What corporates look for in an agency
“Different companies need different things but as a rule of thumb, what I am looking for most is their capacity and the size of the team. Are they able to help support with the size of the events portfolio and the amount of work that I have? Time zones are important because I have often had a global role, so being able to work with agencies in a global capacity, and understanding the global nuances is very important,” said Weyler.
“Culture fit is also crucial, especially for the larger corporations that I have worked with where we have had to embed them as an extension of my team. It’s important that it works for everyone because it’s a partnership. We also look for innovation and the advisory piece to add value to my team’s role. And finally cadence and communication and budget are key. Being able to stick to budget is very important.”
Krishna agreed, adding: “One of the things that is also important to us is a shared vision. To agree on what we want to accomplish and what we are looking to deliver in terms of the experience, for our customers, and our external stakeholders. It’s important that we all agree on what that vision is and how we go about delivering it. Then it’s about making sure the people on both sides, whether it’s my team or the agency side, have the skillsets to deliver what we are trying to accomplish.”
Kastner explained that the best relationships she has had, in her experience both on the agency side and corporate side, is when the two teams worked as an extension of one another. “There is no you versus us, it’s one team. That to me has been critical in my agency partnerships, at SAP and in other roles over the years.”
Kastner asked how it important it is for an agency to have had previous experience working in the same industry sector as a corporate.
“Personally, I don’t think that it’s necessary for an agency to have industry experience. Right now, I’m in tech, but before I was in energy, which can be quite conservative. So, by working with agencies outside of the sector it’s a great way to bring in new ideas. It comes back down to trust and an agency being able to demonstrate they have worked with similar sized businesses and budgets to deliver that. So, I am very open to it, and it has worked for me when I have done it,” said Weyler.
Mona agreed that having the different perspectives and experiences that come with working from agencies in different industries is a positive. But added “it’s still important to understand who the customer is and who you are serving, because if you don’t understand that, then you won’t be able to deliver what they need.”
The importance of feedback
The panel also discussed why regular feedback is essential to strong relationships between corporates and agencies and the fact that it needs to be both ways.
“It’s not just about corporate to agency feedback. As corporate professionals, we must be able to take feedback as well, especially as our teams are often very large,” explained Kastner.
Weyler added: “It’s essential. I have had experience when I haven’t received feedback and there wasn’t regular communication and that impacted budgets, and that created huge issue for me.
“I have also had the other side, where I had a great relationship with an agency and they constantly wanted to speak to me, they were constantly questioning if I was okay with budgets, and whether I should be making various decisions that might take me over budget. It keeps the trust in the partnership, and on scope. It’s being able to have that regular communication especially if it does go out of scope and that changes timelines and budgets as it allows you to reflect.”