Everything is everything these days. Long gone are the days when clear lines of distinction exist between channels. For example; where is the line between PR and advertising today? Content and advertising?  Is Social best handled by a PR agency or a digital agency? How does a marketer divide responsibilities between their service agencies when there is overlap in capabilities and expertise?

We had a situation recently that could have gotten ugly in which two service partners sharing a mutual client had a different take on who should ‘own’ execution on what was a combined recommendation. Each partner had a unique take on how they would execute it.  Was one right and the other wrong? No, they each approached it from their unique expertise.  Either agency would have executed the program well and the client would have had good results.

So, how did we resolve this?

First and foremost, we did not drag the client into the middle of the discussion because the last thing the agencies needed was to come across as non-collaborative to the client. This was our problem, not theirs.

Two open and honest phone calls between reasonable professionals who never lost sight that the decision should be made based on what was best for the client. Had these conversations become arguments or devolved into financial self-interests we’d still have no resolution. We also never characterized the situation as a fight because that creates conflict, friction and animosity.

Our first inclination was to see if there was an opportunity to collaborate on execution. But due to the unique nature of this specific initiative, we ultimately both agreed that one of the partners needed to own it outright and the other agency gracefully backed away in the spirit of partnership feeling that the client was still in very capable hands respecting the decision and the overall relationship.

The moral of the story?  In absence of having very clear and agreed to lines of distinction cooler heads will prevail. If you find yourself in this predicament be willing to back away if the client is better served by the other partner—or equally served. One bad situation can sour a relationship forever and ultimately you and the client are worse off for it.