Archive for August, 2010

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]We’re not a huge corporate outfit, we are a modestly sized, (highly ambitious) agency. It’s been a tough old slog to get this far and the difficult past year has proven to be a real b**ch on our plans for growth. We have though come a long way and have only recruited throughout the recession, so we must be doing something right – but what interests me, are the things which we’re not!

With the difficult economic landscape in the past year or two, we’ve looked much closer at how we do things (I’m sure we’re not alone). And for us, that’s not terribly difficult to do – in many ways, the recession makes mistakes glare that much more obviously. When times are good, mistakes are easily masked. When revenue and profits are strong, lost opportunities and poor management can get hidden in successes.

For me, one of the thing that stands as being ‘masked’ at our company is – honesty (or the lack thereof).

I’m talking about colleagues not being (constructively) critical of what they expect of each other. In a company of our size, you often find yourself making a client commitment and depend on someone else to help deliver it. When this breaks down and we fail on a commitments, you’ll often hear polite dialogues along the lines of:

Will you be able to get this to the client today, as promised?

Not sure mate, I’m so stacked up with X and Y and Z – I’ll do my best, but it might spill over to tomorrow … is that all-right?
(cue – sympathetic looks!)

Hmmm, not great but OK … I’ll get in touch with the client and let them know we’ve encountered an issue (cue – inner thoughts along the lines of ‘Hmmm, I explained this was urgent yesterday!’)

STOP!!! This is exactly where honesty would have served us all a lot better. It’s not “OK”, it should be:

We committed and
I don’t want to reverse this with the client. Tell me, how can we deliver this today??.

It’s not about being a pain, unfairly demanding or unrealistic. It’s about colleagues feeling free to be openly vocal about their expectations for what they need from each other, to allow them to their jobs effectively. It’s about colleagues helping each other to do better, by demanding more of each other. There is nothing wrong to openly expect (demand) accountability.

Honesty (if presented in the right way) may sting in the short term, but will surely result in clearer expectations all round. And (as a whole) should allow everyone to grow and improve at their game.

Instead of creating a new ‘Director of Honesty’ position  I think I’ll simply start asking people to stop and ask themselves…  “Have you been honest with your fellow colleague today?”.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Many agencies say they do digital strategy,  it’s an easy thing to claim after all. But how easy is it really?

Recently we were approached by a successful FTSE 100 outfit who in turn had approached a number of agencies for thoughts on how best to plan their digital strategy. They have a complex business structure granted, but the responses they received were surprisingly underwhelming, to the point that two were immediately written off. These are reputable agencies we are talking about.

An agency is only as good as it’s people. This much, anybody would agree with – it’s something you’ll often hear. Indeed delivering strong strategy must come from experienced knowledgable and opinionated individuals. But an agency is also only as good as its ability to learn and build from it’s experiences.

We’ve been going for 17 years and have been delivering corporate communications ever since. We moved into digital early on in the game. But, if we were only as good as our staff today, then the past 17 years of experience working with established brands on their communications strategies and challenges would be wasted. The good experiences and the bad. The successes and the failures. From the strategies to the micro-sites. These are the things that make us exclusively us and ultimately what ensures that we can be strategic with the things we do.

It all sounds obvious, I know. But what it boils down to, if you subscribe to this, is the importance of learning and building from past experiences; to cultivate a teach and learn environment; to ensure that past experiences are not forgotten, but that they actively (and naturally) becomes part the way you work – with your staff and with your clients. This is building strategic value. Fail to do this, and you are indeed only as good as your people.