Published: Tuesday 25th June 2013

It used to be the case that agencies would be asked to send their credentials at the start of the pitch process, usually to help the client to narrow down their initial selection. Today, as a good RFI is tailored and includes any relevant credentials that any potential client might want, the need for standard (read: generic) agency credentials has diminished.

But what kind of agency doesn’t have credentials? And what do we present to new clients during their induction? And what about that random, slightly questionable opportunity that comes via the network? What will we send to them if we don’t have generic credentials? Clearly there is still a role, albeit a smaller one, for the agency credentials deck.

Fundamentally, the role of agency credentials hasn’t changed: their purpose is to showcase the agency’s best work. They act as the hotel brochure for Marketing Directors looking for a break from their existing advertising. They have other audiences too, of course: potential employees perhaps? Partner agencies? The main thing to remember is that they should show your agency in its best possible light.

So the first tip would be to get your Creative Director involved – so you might have to relinquish some control, but if you write a brief and keep a focus on who your ultimate audience is going to be (a potential client who is short on time) then you should end up with the credentials document you want, but looking a thousand times more professional than you might have been able to achieve alone.

Then, take any work that is more than 3 years old and forget it. It’s over. It was great work, and it might be what your agency is famous for, but it is OLD, and any client worth their salt will know that it’s old.

Go back to your agency positioning and think about what work from the last three years really demonstrates that you practice what you preach as an agency. This content is a no-brainer. Next, look at any award winning work, whether the award is for creativity or effectiveness. It’s probably a dead cert that this should be included too. Finally, look at any work that demonstrates anything potentially different or unique about your agency: for example, any innovative work, anything that was a “first” in the category (or even industry), anything that would surprise a client, and consider putting that in too. If your Creative Director is involved, he’ll no doubt have an opinion on what work is showcased (you could anticipate this by putting the work you want included in the brief).

Next think about the story you want your credentials to tell. It’s possible that clients will flick through or move to a particular campaign they’re most interesting, so think carefully about what you want on each page so that it doesn’t have to be read cover to cover in order to get a feel for the agency. Your agency positioning probably needs to be evident somewhere, but don’t write an essay on it. Remember that the clients are interested only in what you can do for them.

Once you’ve agreed on the work and story, think about how you want to present it. Credentials could be seen in a number of situations: they might be left on reception for guests to flick through, they might be emailed to an intermediary, they might be presented to a new client, or sent to headhunters. Some audiences may be interested only in the imagery, others may want to read a full story about each campaign presented. The point is, you need to have several options for the format of your credentials, depending on the circumstance in which they are going to be viewed.

Lastly, keep them updated. Look at them at least once per quarter. And don’t forget to include contact details!

To learn more tips about writing creds, websites and case studies, will be running our New Business Management Skills Day on 3rd October.


Gemma Batterby – June 2013