Strong Agency-Client Partnerships Make for Award-Winning Work

Strong Agency-Client Partnerships Make for Award-Winning Work
Debbie Horak
October 05, 2016
Front of a Rapid bus

Having recently been honored with a national award recognizing our campaign for The Rapid as an “exceptional campaign to advance the public transportation industry,” we stopped to reflect on what went so right in this campaign.

  1. Everyone was focused on one goal, from the very beginning.
    This recognition of The Rapid’s campaign from the American Public Transit Association was especially gratifying because even though our agency has a long history of working in public transportation, our relationship with The Rapid is new and the goals are big – inspire the people of Greater Grand Rapids to love The Rapid. Know, of course. Support, probably. Appreciate, maybe. But love? This was a very tall order. But this was the goal and everybody – throughout the client’s organization and the entire agency – was on board with it.
  2. We did our homework.
    Even though we specialize in public information and education and are very familiar with public transit, we had to think about this campaign from scratch and start with the proverbial clean sheet of paper. Every community has a different relationship with its public transportation system. Every system is one of a kind. Our depth of knowledge and experience was certainly helpful, but we had to focus on the uniqueness of this system and community. Extensive secondary research, deep analysis of the client’s annual survey results and conducting focus group discussions were pivotal to fully understanding the relationship between the Greater Grand Rapids community and its public transportation system. The focus groups especially gave us the underpinnings of the language that would capture their attention, imagination and support.
  3. The whole team was involved.
    As an agency, we approach our clients’ goals holistically. We don’t presuppose a standardized set of tools or solutions before we’ve worked through the prior steps. Our whole team – representing all aspects of marketing such as strategy and planning, creative development, research, media placement, social outreach and engagement, public relations, etc. – participates in the goal-setting and homework phases of the work. This 360-degree view always takes our thinking and the campaign to a better, deeper place than it would go if we were more prescriptive about any campaign from the beginning. The client’s buy-in and participation in the process were critical to this as well, so in this context, “whole team” means everybody – both client and agency teams – being involved with the campaign from start to finish.
  4. The story was compelling.
    The approach had to highlight the real, deep stories that proved to be at the core of what the community values about The Rapid. The individuals and groups of people whose lives are enriched by The Rapid were the feature of the campaign. Riders had been highlighted before. Short stories had been used to promote The Rapid. But this campaign was different. A member of our client’s team said it best in an article she wrote about this campaign:

In this industry we have grown accustomed to relying on facts and statistics about our service, but we must stop expecting numbers alone to tell the story. It’s easy to forget that each statistic represents a person with a story and each of those stories represents a vision of hope and connectedness for tomorrow. The videos aren’t merely showcasing our bus service; they express what the community wants the future to look like. It’s the combination of the visual narrative, emotional resonance and future focus that we must share widely.

The intersection of story-telling and public outreach in the transportation field itself isn’t new; many agencies have worked to enhance their messaging through media and social engagement, some more successfully than others. As an industry we must master a level of visual storytelling and emotional resonance to win the trust and understanding of the public, to whom we owe it to demonstrate the enduring and unique value of our work in creating truly connected communities.

Güd Marketing is so very proud to have mastered this level of visual storytelling and emotional resonance in this campaign on behalf of The Rapid.

  1. The reward is meaningful.
    Receiving a national award that recognizes our work is a great source of pride for both The Rapid and Güd Marketing. It gives us bragging rights and represents recognition of great ideas, hard work and a job well done. Awards matter. Marketing and advertising is a big investment for clients, and new campaigns are a risk. Receiving national recognition helps validate the work.

For all of us – client and agency – involved in this campaign, the satisfaction of meeting the goals is also great. We are even more proud to play a role in growing public transportation in the Grand Rapids community because it’s good for everyone. We are fond of saying that if we had to choose between the two, we’d opt for meeting clients’ goals and advancing their business every time rather than winning awards. Fortunately, we can do both at the same time.