Monthly Archives: October 2010

The simplest questions are the hardest to answer

Really, I should take a lot of this advice.  I still haven’t really found my blogging mojo here.  I’m doing some navel gazing about why I want a blog, and what it should be like.  I think I’m better at Twitter but it feels lazy.  I feel like I should talk more about what I like, what’s interesting, but I’m not clear on the basics (all elaborated in the excellent links below):

– what’s the purpose of this blog?

– what do I want to achieve by writing it?

– who am I writing for?

– what is unique, what can I offer my audience that no one else can?

I can ask the questions.  Answering them takes longer and more consideration. It’s all gone a bit existential over here…

Anyway, here are some articles, that sum up a lot of what I’m thinking and say it better than I can.  They’re not really about blogging, they’re actually about creative briefing and content strategy:

20 Warning Signs That Your Content Sucks

How to write a better weblog

The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging – and when to use each one

Blogging lesson 2: strategy first

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How to write winning awards papers

I skipped past the ‘air quality’ (hayfever season is over, thank goodness) and ‘analytics’ (not a very useful link) bookmarks to ‘awards’.

It’s nice to win awards.  There are an awful lot of awards out there, some are better than others. I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference if you have loads of awards in your reception area or not – they have to be the right ones, obviously.  Anyway, since lots of agencies like to have them it’s best to have an absolutely no awards policy or to be as selective as possible and win the prestigious ones.

Writing good papers is an art form.  I’ve had a pretty good record so far of writing awards papers this year and I credit this helpful guide from the Jay Chiat awards for helping me do this.

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Agency Culture

My first bookmark file is called agency culture, and the bookmarks loosely fall into this category.

Agency culture is something that fascinates me, perhaps because it is not easy to define, and pretty difficult to control.

I’ve worked at several agencies, and ‘culture’ is more important at some than others.

I’d say I preferred working at the places that put culture, and the welfare of its staff at the top.  Pride in the place that you work and its culture is important – having an IIP plaque at the front door feels different to winning a top 50 place in the Sunday Times Best SMEs to work for.

We spend more of our waking time at work than anywhere else (or at least I seem to…) so it’s important that a workplace is fun, friendly, a place to grow and develop, and a place to create great things – create great things together.  A good agency culture can make a big difference.

So here are 3 observations and interesting bits and pieces on agency culture based on some of the stuff in my bookmarks (and my personal experience):

1. Culture can’t be built by hiring a particular kind of person

Agencies should be anti-corporate, hiring innovative, collaborative individuals who want to work together to do good things with their clients’ brands.  I went through graduate recruitment processes where I was told I was an ‘Agency X person’, but that so-and-so was more of an ‘Agency Y person’.

This is nonsense, but I’ve heard it so many times since.

Sure, the kind of clients an agency has will dictate some of the ways that people work, and particular personality types will prefer FMCG to financial, and so on, but this is something that happens naturally.

Hire the right person for the role, that’s all you can do.

2. Culture doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it

It might seem like navel gazing to want to work on agency culture, clients might not care too much about it, but if it makes a difference to the quality of people’s work (and their working life) then it’s worth it.  (Don’t pay any heed to the research that says we are more creative when we are miserable!)

Good culture can develop from:

  1. Regular meetings about the company’s work – creative sharing, and discussion of what’s worked, what hasn’t
  2. Celebrate staff’s successes in and out of work (new business wins, completion of projects, new babies, etc.)
  3. Clear leadership and direction from a single source (athough this can be more than one person)
  4. Emphasis on involvement in culture at every level – from receptionist upwards
  5. An almost competitive desire to share information and inspiration
  6. Training and development (role-related and otherwise – one agency I worked at contributed towards university fees)
  7. Perks that feel like they have the staff’s best interests at heart (i.e. good holiday allocation, home working options, help with travel, flexible hours, etc. Although it is a recession, some of these increase productivity rather than cost money.)

3. Belonging doesn’t just happen, you can’t force belonging

Practically every agency I have worked at has described its staff as ‘Agency X-ers’, as if adding the -ers suffix meant they automatically felt loyalty and belonging to that agency.  Loyalty and a feeling of belonging usually takes a long time to develop, and it has to be earned on both sides.

My ‘agency culture’ bookmarks:

Do ad agencies have a future, and if so, what does it look like?

Give away your best ideas.  Win more work.

Re-imagining the agency proposition

Made By Many: Paths, Processes and Behaviours

Six Secrets of a Successful Collective

The Psychology of Failure: Leadership

You’re Hired: The Six Attributes Every New Employee Needs


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A new approach to the blog

Hello…  It’s been quite quiet around here, but I am determined to remedy it.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about agency culture, why I like working in an agency, and what makes an agency good to work in, and with. There’s a few thoughts on this subject I would like to share with you, particularly on collaboration, what makes a good team, and the role of planning and how to integrate it into your offer.

I think I will also share some articles I have bookmarked over the last year or so.  I won’t just put the links up here, but I will talk a bit about why they are useful and what you can do with them.

So hopefully I will be slightly less manically busy and distracted than recently and have a bit of time to get these things down here soon.

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