Communication Protocols for Effective Agency Teams

Effective communication is a paramount challenge for any team, and in the fast-paced world of communication agencies, the consequences of poor communication are especially profound.

Effective communication is a paramount challenge for any team, and in the fast-paced world of communication agencies, the consequences of poor communication are especially profound.

What is the impact of poor agency team communications? It results in a breakdown of trust, disengaged employees, and faltering projects.

In this article, we will explore crucial communication protocols that agency leaders can implement to foster effective teams. I’ve learnt from first-hand experience how setting clear protocols save time, set clear expectations, and reduce mistakes and misunderstandings within the team and with clients.

Communication is a Leader’s job

Leaders, whether managing directors, department heads, or account directors, must recognize that effective communication is the cornerstone of successful leadership. James Humes, speechwriter for Eisenhower, wisely stated, "The art of communication is the language of leadership."

Some leaders treat communication like it's a mystical art form, leading to confusion and frustration within their teams. They don’t anticipate the need for communication ahead of time; it's a last-minute circus, and their teams end up feeling like tired acrobats, jumping through hoops of demands.

When it comes to expressing what they need and when they need it, it's like they're sending messages via carrier pigeon - vague, indirect, and prone to getting lost in translation. This not only means the output isn't up to par but might also force them into a one-person show, leaving them personally exhausted and on the fast track to burnout. And when things get murky and stressful, these leaders seem to take a vow of silence. The result? Their subordinates are left feeling like castaways on a deserted island of confusion, with motivation sinking faster than a lead balloon.

Clear and proactive leadership communication supports team cohesion and prevents burnout.

Protocol 1: Establish an Internal Communication Matrix

Communication protocols act as bridges, facilitating the smooth flow of collaboration within agency teams. One crucial step in this process is implementing a communication matrix, delineating channels for various types of information. While agencies excel in client communication planning, internal communication often takes a back seat.

To enhance clarity and reduce context switching, specify suitable channels for different types of communication. This not only streamlines operations but also saves time, boosting overall productivity.

Here is a framework to kickstart your efforts:

Communications Matrix

Leaders must lead by example, adhering to established protocols and avoiding expedient methods like vague one-line emails.

Protocol 2: Prioritize Regular Internal Meetings

Despite the bad reputation meetings often receive, they are valuable when conducted effectively. A staggering $37 billion is lost annually due to unproductive meetings, making well-run internal meetings crucial for agency success.

Internal meetings are powerful avenues for agency leaders to anticipate potential challenges or problems before they occur.

Three types of meetings—All Agency/Department WIP meetings, Project stand-ups meetings, and 1-to-1 personnel meetings—are critical for fostering connection, problem-solving, and alignment:

  • All Agency/Department WIP meetings:
    Get a view of the volume of work flowing through and key clients/projects to keep an eye on for the week ahead.
    Frequency: Weekly | Duration: 30 min
  • Project stand-ups meetings:
    Pick up on more micro issues that might be hindering project progress
    Frequency: Daily | Duration: 15 min
  • 1-to-1 personnel meetings:
    Get and give feedback, encourage staff and keep a pulse on how your direct reports are doing on a personal level.
    Frequency: Monthly or bi-monthly | Duration: 30 min

All meetings should have clear formats and agendas, and attendees should understand why they are attending. Keep meetings short, focused, and action-oriented. Especially where discussions are complex or long, there should be a summary re-cap and clear follow-up action points.

As a leader, internal meetings MUST be a priority on your calendar. Always cancelling, postponing, or rescheduling internal meetings communicates that you are disorganized and do not value your team or their work enough to warrant getting regular updates.

Protocol 3: Communicate Communication Courtesies Expected

Communication courtesies are integral to professionalism and reflect positively on your agency's brand. But given the dynamic landscape of today's multi-generational workforce, assuming universal understanding of communication norms is a huge mistake.

As we say, common sense can be quite uncommon. Leaders need to articulate the communication courtesies expected within the team and with clients.

Here are some examples:

Communication Courtesies

Protocol 4: Emphasize the Importance of Documentation in Black & White

Documenting important communications is essential for maintaining clarity within the agency and with clients.

Stress the importance of sharing crucial information through official channels, avoiding platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram.

Examples of critical communications include signed proposals and any changes in brief or scope. By adhering to formal documentation channels, agencies ensure formality and clarity in their communications, minimizing the risk of misunderstandings and more serious conflict or challenges.

Conclusion: Elevate Your Agency’s Effectiveness with Clear Communication Protocols

Effective communication is the linchpin of a thriving agency. In its absence, trust wanes, teams underperform, and leaders are left puzzled by unmet goals. The communication protocols outlined here are tailored to help agency teams work together more efficiently and happily. By implementing these protocols, leaders can save time, prevent misunderstandings, and cultivate a culture of collaboration and high performance within their teams.

To recap, here are the protocols:

  1. Establish an Internal Communications Matrix: Clearly define channels for different communication needs/types to enhance productivity and eliminate confusion.
  2. Prioritize Regular Internal Meetings: Turn meetings into valuable tools for connection, problem-solving, and alignment. Keep them structured, focused, and action-oriented.
  3. Communicate Communication Courtesies Expected: Explicitly outline expected communication courtesies within the team and with clients. From providing context to respecting the workday, these courtesies enhance professionalism and brand image.
  4. Emphasize the Importance of Documentation in Black & White: Stress the significance of documenting crucial communications through official channels for formality and clarity.

Leadership and effective communication are inseparable. Embrace these communication protocols as bridges, facilitating the smooth flow of collaboration, understanding, and the creation of great work within your agency teams. Effective communication is a paramount challenge for any team, and in the fast-paced world of communication agencies, the consequences of poor communication are especially profound.