The outsiders’ advantage – the value of an external content agency

by Anna Fozzard

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When a huge project lands, you know where to turn. There’s an external agency waiting in the wings. You brief them, they turn it around, your Fridays become less of a rush. Simple.

But a specialised agency offers more than people who can get work off your desk. A neutral party, they can challenge assumptions within your business, navigate tricky conversations with your colleagues for you, and point out additional opportunities for you. Far from a replacement for an internal team, an external agency works best when bouncing off your in-house experts to give you focus, ideas and an invaluable objective view.

The power of best practice

Most internal teams don’t have it all. The person who creates the highly technical reports may not be as brilliant at crafting a snappy headline or social media post. And it often doesn’t make financial sense to have a specialist on the payroll for each piece of content you need to create.

An external agency has a bank of experience from supporting clients across sectors on different projects. Plus specialists who know more than others about certain content and subjects. By tapping into this expertise, you can make sure your content reflects industry best practices. An agency can also give you an insight into approaches others are taking with content, helping you tweak your strategy to stay ahead of fast-changing expectations.

The best kind of ‘otherness’

When you’re involved in your business day in, day out, it can be difficult to tell what others understand about the work you do. An external agency can tell you how your content comes across from the outside. They can point out where knowledge gaps aren’t being filled and ask questions that you may not have considered – the kinds of questions your audience will ask too. Harnessing this perspective means you can make sure your content addresses your audience’s concerns and gets them on board.

A neutral voice

Internal politics can put a dampener on a content strategy. Conflicting opinions and personal agendas can lead to excessive revisions that dilute the message and its impact, resulting in bland content.

The only agenda for an external agency is to create effective content that aligns with your goals. It’s important to point out here that working towards goals doesn’t always involve sticking staunchly to a brief. In some cases, the value of an external agency is to improve the brief to make sure the content is more impactful and reaches those targets.

An external agency brings a neutral perspective, which can be vital to move forward on sticking points in your content. If you feel you can’t push back on ideas or edits, someone else may be better placed to disagree with your colleagues (or even your boss!). A skilled external agency will be able to explain to different stakeholders the reasoning behind content decisions, making sure everyone is on the same page.

Gathering the gold dust

Asking your colleagues questions is one thing. Interviewing them is quite another. Running journalistic-style interviews is a skill that takes practise to keep the conversation on track and tease out valuable insights. If this is new to you or you simply feel a bit silly interviewing a colleague (we feel you), an external agency can hold the conversation and extract the most pertinent messages for your audience.

Breaking down the jargon

The curse of knowledge often plagues internal teams. As you are so immersed in your industry and business language, it’s second nature. You may have no idea that the acronyms and technical words make no sense to your audiences. When jargon slips into comms, it can alienate the audience. An external agency doesn’t have the same level of familiarity with the industry terms you use. They will be able to spot them more easily than you can. By simplifying the language (or explaining words that can’t be replaced), they can help you break down barriers and make your content accessible to a wider audience.

Taking a step back

A content strategy is an opportunity to take stock, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and make informed decisions on your next approach. Internal teams can create their own content strategy, but it’s valuable to get an external deep dive on your content. External experts can conduct thorough competitor analysis, identify messages that aren’t coming across strongly, and highlight new ideas that you may not have thought about.

The practical side

Creating high-quality content requires time – something that in-house teams often struggle to dedicate as they juggle multiple internal demands. External agencies, on the other hand, can allocate resources to make sure your content receives the attention it deserves. And if your project becomes something much bigger, or something new lands on your desk that threatens to sideline the work, an agency can scale up capacity to help you keep to the deadline. It’s not just about getting the creative minds on the work. A skilled account management team at an external agency will make sure the working parts come together seamlessly to keep up momentum.

When it’s time to send that email

When you can’t see a path to getting a project over the line, it’s obvious you need an external agency to help. But what else is a sign that you need an objective view? Look out for these three Cs:

Conversations going around in circles – if you can’t seem to move forward with content or a plan and you’re disagreeing with colleagues, it’s time for an objective opinion.

Complaints from customers/clients – these are unlikely to be about the content itself, but getting regular complaints can be a sign that customers are missing something.

Change on the horizon – if your business is going through a transformation or you want to change tack in your comms to increase your reach, a specialist agency can guide you on your next steps.

When you spot these signs, you know where we are. Get in touch for that valuable, objective view.

For key insights on the importance of content strategy to your business, watch the recording of our webinar that took place on 29 February 2024 – hosted by our Head of Copy & Strategy, Claire Wilson.

Get in touch. Let us know how we can help.