Harvard’s Client-Agency Commitments

Fiona Bates

21 Oct 2021

Make your move. It’s our client mantra, it’s our people mantra. Whether client side or agency side, we believe that we all take the best from life when we’re driven by purpose, focused on turning a vision into reality, and making our move to the next great achievement.

In our industry, however, it’s rare to do that on your own – marketing and comms is a team sport, and client-agency relationships sit at the heart of that. Our most recent survey showed that 91% of our clients see us as an extension of their team; 91% also feel we share really good insights and understanding aligned to what they need to achieve; and 94% feel that we really care about their businesses. Which we absolutely do! Our client Net Promoter Score was 8.82. We’re really proud of this but didn’t want to rest on our laurels – especially in these times.

Over the last 18 months we’ve all seen and experienced a lot of change: we now have different ways of working, for a start. We have also all focused on what it takes to be a responsible business, taking action and driving change in areas including diversity, equality and inclusion.

With so much evolution, we feel now is the right time to reframe what creates successful client-agency relationships – built on honesty, respect, open-mindedness and most importantly a shared purpose.

We’ve renewed our Harvard Client-Agency Commitments to clearly define a set of shared priorities that we will hold ourselves accountable to and ask our clients to do the same. As we’ve shared this, the feedback has been fantastic. As we would have expected from such collaborative clients, we’ve received overwhelming support and everyone is keen to embrace these commitments day-to-day.

So here’s an overview of our eight principles. Against each of these, we’ve created a Harvard commitment and a client commitment:

  1. Extension of your team – By operating as true partners, we can embrace new opportunities and overcome challenges collectively; to ensure we’re always delivering the best quality of work.
  2. Agreeing what good looks like – Be it planning for an annual retainer or a one-off campaign, it’s essential that we speak the same language and stay focused on that destination – when agreeing success metrics and also the right path to get there.
  3. Time management – Our industry can work at breakneck speed and there’ll always be circumstances that require quick turnarounds. So, in partnership, we’ll ensure that we achieve priorities successfully, without ever sacrificing on quality or staff wellbeing.
  4. Budget & resourcing – With an honest, responsible, and transparent approach to pricing and resourcing, we can ensure our partnership is built around impact, value and efficiency.
  5. Honest communication – With a commitment to always being honest with each other, we can ensure issues are addressed quickly, praise is happily given and warmly received, and the highest quality of work is maintained.
  6. Inclusive work – Together, we’ll make sure that diversity, equality and inclusion considerations are at the forefront of our work. Never an after-thought. That means being open to challenging current ways of thinking.
  7. Providing the right answer – We’ll work together to create well-rounded solutions to briefs and business challenges.
  8. Continuous improvement – Ultimately, we recognise that all agency-client relationships must evolve over time and these changes should be reflected in the quality of work we set out to achieve. We must always look to improve on what we have – never simply repeat.

Finally, there’s a shared commitment on acting as respectful partners. To value the importance of partnership, so we always treat each other with respect, honesty and professionalism whilst taking a zero-tolerance approach to discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour.

These commitments will form the foundations of our client-agency relationships – in fact they already do – and we will revisit them on a regular basis to continue to benchmark ourselves against them.

We are incredibly proud of the partnerships we form with clients – some as long as 15+ years! Let’s bottle what makes them great to ensure that both our clients and our people can always make their move together.

We’d love for you to read through our commitments in more detail here and get in touch with your thoughts.

Co-Authored by Fiona Bates, Harvard’s Client Services Director and Mary Paslawski, Client Services Director, Marketing