Digital Natives Group’s Jonathan Jacobs on adding value through collaboration
#SproutPartner Jonathan Jacobs is Co-founder and Partner at Digital Natives Group—a digital marketing agency proudly located in “one of New York’s creative capitals,” Long Island City, NY.
The aptly named agency boasts an instinctive, inherent understanding of today’s connective technologies as a result of being “born into digital.”
We recently spoke with Jacobs about how he and Digital Natives Group approach and accomplish effective collaboration with multiple client and partner stakeholders.
In your work at Digital Natives, where do you find the greatest need for collaboration?
For some of our clients, especially some of the larger organizations, there are a ton of different parties we need to collaborate across—whether it’s another digital agency, an internal party we don’t interface with as frequently or an outside PR agency. And although we consider all of our client relationships a partnership, we’ve got several clients that are pretty hands-on so collaboration in those cases is a must.
Tell us a little more about what that client collaboration looks like.
Our team produces content on a monthly basis, but on occasion our clients might have something they want to say, a link that’s of interest or an advocate they want to support. So we’ll have them go into the platform and save that content as a draft. At the end of the week we go in and take a look at everything, make sure everything is in the right brand voice with the right brand imagery and then we go ahead and queue it up.
We also use the shared Asset Library as a repository for visual inspiration. If our client happens to be a photographer or sees a graphic they like that they want us to recreate, they just drop it in the library. Now we’ve got a grouping of images or graphics we can use to help create a more collaborative aesthetic.
It’s no secret that collaborating across agencies can be difficult at times. With it being such an important part of your process, how do you ensure it’s more collaborative than competitive?
I think it’s important to remember the ultimate goal—to amplify each other’s work and improve the efficacy and success of the campaign. When we hear what another agency or internal party is working on, we try to have the mindset of, “What is a way that we can create something that will add value to what they’re doing? And what valuable tools can we provide them with to amplify their program?”
What do you think agencies need in order to attain that goal?
With what we do, transparency is huge. For a lot of organizations or individuals we work with, it’s their first time investing in a digital agency and making a commitment to the digital space. In those cases we advocate for bi-weekly calls for sharing and discussing projects. Ensuring they have a regular outlet to ask questions and talk openly helps to prevent the potentially problematic build up of underlying concerns and issues.
These calls also provide the opportunity to surface what everyone is working on and allows us to add value wherever possible with our own tools and expertise. So when a team is working on an offline program that doesn’t seem to have a digital activation, we can come in and say, “actually, if you’re able to capture some of those photo assets we can either amplify it after the fact online, or create a social campaign around it to help attract more individuals before the event even takes place.”
We also encourage monthly roundups featuring the projects everyone is working on for the campaign. For those parties that may not necessarily have that digital-first mindset, they might not realize how much we’re able to do online. So showing them some of the projects and initiatives we’re working on might just spark an idea for further collaboration.
This transparency definitely goes both ways as well. Whenever possible we grant external stakeholders with read-only access to our content in the platform, so they always have an insight into what we’re working on. This also helps keep messaging consistent and helps avoid any duplicate or competing efforts.
On that note of transparency, at what point do you think it’s most important to connect and/or align with other project stakeholders?
One of the things that’s been top of mind for me recently has been this idea of proper preparation and planning. Getting people to learn how to have an eye for and an understanding of what goes into producing good digital campaigns can be difficult. I think some people who don’t have a digital-first mindset think that because something’s online means it can happen really fast. So we’ve really pushed our partners to start thinking about campaigns three, four, five months in advance so we can really plan to launch at the right time of the cycle. We’ve seen some of our best work come from collaboration early on in the process.
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