9 Best Practices For Partnering With An IC Agency

February 14, 2024
Brilliant Ink has spent over 15 years partnering with hundreds of internal communicators. We've seen up close that the struggle is real.

Trust us, we know the life of an in-house comms person is NOT easy. You need to create strategic messages that hit the mark and build a solid employee community. At the same time, you need to keep up with the endless flow of information, tight deadlines, and countless meetings. Sound familiar?

🥳 Good news: Whether you're flying solo or part of a larger team, the right agency can make all the difference.

After working with comms teams of all sizes across every industry, we’ve learned a thing or two about making these partnerships really work. Whether you’re working by yourself or with a group, the right agency can help you get more done by showing you best practices and strategies that already work for companies like yours.

In this blog, we’ll give you some clear, easy tips on working with an internal comms agency to make your job simpler and more effective.

Ready to get started? Let's go.

But First, What Is An Internal Communications Agency?

What exactly is an Internal Communications (IC) Agency, you ask? An IC Agency specializes in the art (and science!) of helping organizations reach, engage, and empower employees.

They're experts who know how to…
✅ Craft messages that employees read and inspire action
✅ Strategically communicate about changes and bring employees along
✅ Encourage and strengthen a values-based company culture
✅ Bridge the gaps between different levels and departments

The long and short? An IC Agency is your strategic partner in creating a more connected, informed, and aligned workplace. Agencies, like Brilliant Ink, use a mix of tried-and-tested methods and the latest techniques to keep your communication approach fresh, relevant, and impactful.

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9 Best Practices for Partnering With Internal Comms Agencies

When embarking on the journey to hire an IC agency, remember that the best partnerships bloom when both parties share a common vision. That's why it's so important to carefully consider the ideal agency for your organization. You must find a partner you can trust to build a deep understanding of your business while never shying away from forthright feedback and perspectives.

Here are some best practices to help you get started!

1. Find The Right Fit

Each company has its unique set of challenges and opportunities. It's crucial that the IC agency you choose not only understands these intricacies but has the capabilities to address them.

Your chosen internal comms agency should have a track record of navigating similar challenges successfully and demonstrate how their strategic guidance led to tangible outcomes.

Innovative solutions should be part of their repertoire, showing that they're not just about 'best practices' but also about ‘creating practices' — forging new paths and setting new benchmarks based on your unique situation.

💡Brilliant Ink Example: Each client team at Brilliant Ink has a star-studded roster, no matter how big or small the project. Each team comprises senior-level communication strategists, creative and detail-oriented designers, and a project manager who keeps every deliverable on time and on budget.

2. Choose a Strategic Advisor

The goal isn't just to find a service provider but a thought partner. When shopping for an IC agency, seek a team that asks the right questions and challenges the status quo, thereby pushing your communications strategy forward.

Your agency should bring a perspective that complements your own. This means they're not just executing tasks but actively participating in setting the vision and identifying the unique edges and angles that can make your communications stand out.

💡 Brilliant Client Example: A Brilliant Ink client needed to increase leadership visibility after troubling scores on a communication preferences survey. As strategic advisors, we worked with each leader to find the comms platform that fit their communication skill set. Good on camera? More videos. Good writer? We started a monthly newsletter from that leader. As your strategic advisor, we’re not afraid to tell you, “One size won’t fit all.”

show me how to prioritize my endless internal communication tasks, tactics, and strategies

3. Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

In the beginning, take the time to establish a clear map of who does what. Your agency should take the lead on that conversation. A good working relationship is about setting expectations and creating a framework for accountability.

By clearly defining roles and points of contact, you eliminate guesswork, streamline processes, and ensure that collaboration is as seamless as it is productive. When everyone knows their part in the grand scheme, the entire team can move seamlessly towards the common goal of influential and impactful internal communication.

💡Brilliant Example: At the start of our partnerships, we create a stakeholder register to account for all the key players at your organization. This helps to guide our review cycles and ensure we’re bringing the right stakeholders into the project at the appropriate milestones. Simply put, we aim to remove any guesswork.

4. Embrace Trust and Collaboration

Trust is the currency of any successful partnership. For communicators, this means looking for an agency you can rely on to understand your voice and convey your messages authentically. It also means being open to ideas that may push you out of your comfort zone.

Collaboration should be a two-way street, where ideas are shared freely, and feedback is not just given but welcomed. Early on in your communications with any prospective agency, be sure to gut-check yourself.

🤔 Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel like I can trust this person/group of people to be "straight" with me?
  • Do I believe they’ll always put my best interests first?
  • Will I be able to make time to build a relationship with my agency so they can get to know me, my work and my team?

If the answer to any of these questions is a “no,” you may not have found your ideal agency match.

5. Share Context (Very) Generously

Don't hold back information when working with your chosen IC agency. All too often, agency clients leave out practical contextual details and background information. Does your leadership team value speed over perfection? Let your agency know. Do specific topics strike a nerve with your employees? Let your agency know!

Provide a wealth of information about your organization — including details on company culture, operational intricacies, past communications efforts, and future aspirations.

📖 Recommended Resource: Defining, Scaling and Sustaining Your Company Culture

The richness of your shared information allows the agency to stitch together a strategy that fits your organization like a glove, designed to move and flex with your specific contours.

6. Foster A Relationship with Feedback

Open lines of communication are the lifeline of a robust agency-client relationship. Commit to building a bridge of transparency where ideas and feedback can travel without barriers. Constructive feedback, delivered with clarity and respect, should be the norm, not the exception.

This two-way dialogue will ensure that strategies and messages are continually refined and aligned with your organization's evolving landscape. It's about creating a space where conversations can be as open as they are purposeful, leading to more effective outcomes.

💡Brilliant Client Example: After a communication audit for a client, the Brilliant Ink Research Team needed to deliver tough news regarding the results. We first presented our findings to the internal comms team and then worked together on how best to deliver the news to leadership. With the right insights about leadership from our client, we made the case for smarter communication tactics and tools.

Understand your employee engagement & communication data without drowning in numbers. Ready to use your data and optimize your communication strategy? Brilliant Ink can help. Get a free measurement consult.

7. Keep the Agency Informed About Changes

One of our frequently used sayings regarding supporting our clients is, “Help me, help you.” That sentiment conveys that an agency needs insight in order to best support clients, so withholding in-house information only harms both parties. A transparent flow of info about company challenges, milestones, or policy updates allows your agency to craft reactive strategies to current scenarios and proactively anticipate future needs.

Timely disclosure of changes, whether management reshuffle, strategic overhaul, or new compliance demands, is critical. These developments can significantly impact your communication approach, and your agency's ability to adjust promptly will keep your efforts aligned and agile.

8. Provide All The Information

It's essential to keep your agency fully in the loop. Think of every detail as a critical piece of a larger puzzle. From the nuances of company policy to the specifics of employee demographics, each piece of information can dramatically alter the effectiveness of a strategy.

Ensure they can access everything from past communications samples and campaign analytics to any data that illustrates the undercurrents of employee sentiment.

9. Rely on the Agency for Complex Challenges

Turn to your IC agency when complex issues arise. They're equipped to simplify complicated matters and offer clear strategies and creative solutions. For instance, they can help calm staff concerns during a merger with transparent messaging.

When rolling out new tech, turn to your agency to translate tech-speak into benefits that employees can rally behind. In crises, they're invaluable for crafting swift, accurate communication to keep your brand's integrity intact. Use their strategic expertise to transform challenges into opportunities.

When To Partner With An IC Agency

When is the right time to call the cavalry and partner with an Internal Communications (IC) agency? Let's break it down into moments and pain points where bringing in the experts could be a game-changer for you.

🧑‍🏫 You Need Strategic Support

In the whirlwind of daily tasks, it's easy to lose sight of the overarching strategy that guides your organization's communication goals. This is where the value of an IC Agency as a strategic partner truly shines. They help you elevate your perspective, offering a bird's-eye view of your communication landscape.

A good agency doesn't just handle tasks – it helps chart a strategic path tailored to your organization's objectives. They provide fresh insights that can reinvigorate your approach and ensure that every message and campaign is not only on-brand but also aligned with your company's long-term vision and goals. With their strategic support, you can break free from the minutiae and focus on impactful communication that drives your organization forward.

🚀 You’re Navigating Company Changes

Change is a constant in the corporate world, but managing it effectively? That's an art. Is your organization going through a significant change? Think of mergers, rebranding, refreshing core values or a shift in company culture. An IC Agency can help smooth the transition and communicate about the change. They can help ensure everyone stays informed, supported, and on board.

🖥️ You're About To Launch A New Tool/Platform

Implementing a new communication tool or platform like an intranet can be a daunting task. An IC Agency can help make the transition smoother. They ensure you're getting the most out of your new (and expensive!) tech investments. IC agencies can also help you find the right tool, train your team, and optimize the tool for your specific needs.

📖 Recommended Resource: Choosing a New Intranet Solution? Here’s How To Get Started.

🤓 You Need Actionable Insights From Employee Data

Swimming in data and trying to figure out what to do with it? (Or worse, no measurement in place?) An IC Agency can help you make sense of your internal communication channel data and metrics. If you need to translate numbers into actionable insights that drive better engagement and more effective strategies, an IC agency is the way to go. Plus, an objective third party to review data or conduct focus groups is always a good idea.

show me how to take numbers to stories: data visualization for IC

🧑 You’re A One-Person IC Team

For the solo IC professional in a company — we feel your pain. Wearing multiple hats can be overwhelming. An IC Agency can be your support system, offering expertise, resources, and an extra pair of hands to help you manage the load and bring your ideas to life.

💪 You Need Support Getting Everything Done

There are moments when the workload just becomes too much. Whether it's due to a spike in projects or the ever-growing demands of your company, having an extra set of skilled hands (and brains!) can make all the difference. An IC Agency can step in to lighten the load, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.


In the end, the right partnership with an IC agency doesn’t just add value to your communication efforts — it multiplies it. It's about ensuring that every internal message is heard, felt and acted upon. That’s how you foster a culture of transparency and engagement.

When you're looking for that perfect agency match, go for one that really gets your team, your organization, and where you want to go. You want a partner who will do the work and help you take your internal comms to the next level.

Follow these best practices and you won't just keep up with the fast pace of business communication — you'll be ahead of the curve.

Ann Melinger

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