Archive for August, 2010

Achieving Balance, or, How We Lost Andrea

3372646_thumbnailThis week, Andrea gave notice and left to join a competing agency.

Andrea had been with us for 3 years, and in that brief amount of time — since she was a rockstar — she climbed the ranks from quiet, mousy intern to Senior Account Executive.  She was unquestionably someone I looked to as a future VP, and I was sad to see her go.

How did we lose Andrea?

At all agencies, there tends to be a cycle of feast/famine.  When times are good, you can never seem to find enough great employees to meet demand.  When times are lean, you invariably strain the limits with the talented staff who remain after you’ve performed any “deadwood” headcount reductions.

You can add “the relentless nature of PR” to this equation and soon see where I’m headed… or rather, why Andrea headed toward the exits.  This is not unique to SHIFT, by the way: for every Andrea we lose, we’ve received a half-dozen resumes from the disgruntled stars at other agencies…

The fact is, most agencies care first & foremost about the bottom line.  (That’s OK, by the way, as, after all, they are for-profit businesses)  When the bottom line is the primary focus, however, you care less about “how Andrea’s doing” and more about “making the numbers,” because you know there are plenty of “Andrea’s” out there.

But SHIFT fancies itself to be a Talent Agency.  And if you believe in that philosophy, you care first about “Andrea” and cross your fingers that the profit will come, too.  Happy employees = happy clients, after all.

The “hard part” is finding the balance.

When we sensed that prospective new hires were expecting more money than we’d anticipated, we conducted extensive research and made the necessary adjustments to ensure we remained competitive.

When the staff suggested they’d like to add more Big Name clients to the roster (a goal I admittedly shared), we were able to add names like Sony, Quiznos, Canadian Club, etc.

And when times got tough and the staff started to creak from over-work, we deliberated over cutting ties with abusive clients, even though it sometimes meant sacrificing short-term profits.  Before you give me any credit, note the nuance: we deliberated. We didn’t always act fast enough.  Because we have a business to run, too, and even a Talent Agency needs profit, in order to employ (and adequately compensate) the talent!

Sometimes you stumble during the Balancing Act.  And it’s unfortunate to lose a cool, hard-working employee like Andrea.  But the hope is to get the balance right over time; to “Keep Calm and Carry On” and — always, always — have some fun along the way.

Good luck, Andrea.  Door’s open if you change your mind.

5 Steps To Dealing with the Relentless Pace of Marketing

Recently a client admitted, “I’m exhausted.” 

The advent of Social Media has not only made the marketer’s role more strategic and complicated, it’s also made it much more BUSY.  Our client was waxing nostalgic for the days when “Getting Ink” was the big mark of success.

Now it’s:

  • Get ink
  • Track and engage influencers ranging from Scoble to a momblogger to a Facebook Group Admin
  • Escalate customer service issues found online before they become a mess on Twitter or Google
  • Develop fresh, compelling content, every single week (or every single day!) for the Social Media outposts including the corporate blog, the YouTube Channel, the Facebook Page, the Twitter stream, LinkedIn Answers, Slideshare, etc. 
  • Keep tabs on competitive content

IStock_000000175705XSmall“There are days when I just want to chuck it all,” the marketer said.  “The job has become relentless, the requirements for content are voracious.  Every day you see someone ELSE post something brilliant and buzzworthy — and you’re jealous and afraid — but then that bit of content is buried under something ELSE even better … So you realize that even the brightest bit of content you create has, at best, a 2–week shelf life, and by then you’d better be thinking about your Next Big Thing …”

Sound familiar?  (Tired, yet?) 

The cruelest part of this story is that this client contact wasn’t even 30–years-old yet!  Despite their youth they were already exhausted.

This is a dilemma for every marketer, every PR agency, everyone.  We recently lost a great employee because she had “crisped” from the pace.  It’s understandable.  I haven’t blogged in almost 2 weeks (due to a brief vacation and a busy schedule), and I’ve literally been in a near-panic about it, as I watch my friends like Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, David Armano, Valeria Maltoni, Jason Falls, etc. blog their booties off, with great content all along the way.

What to do?

When faced with overwhelming to-do’s, I find it best to break things down into the smallest parts possible. This doesn’t necessarily make the job easier in the end, but it does help to re-focus the mind on what’s important.

First: decide on your goals.  Is your goal to be the coolest & most popular?  Is your goal to be known as a thought leader in your industry?  Is your goal to boost SEO for search terms related to your space?  If you don’t figure this out, you’ll drive yourself nuts because lacking a plan, your ego will take over and drive you mad. 

IStock_000011751237XSmallSecond: ask for help.  The voracious Interwebs should not be faced alone, not forever.  For my part, I have initiated a series of casual conversations with friends and colleagues to enlist their aid in planning (and developing) “what’s next,” both for this blog and for SHIFT’s other digital embassies.    

Third: set a reasonable pace.  There will always be someone smarter, more prolific, and more popular than you or your company.  Don’t fall prey to the need to compete on the speed of content creation; instead, set a pace that you know won’t drive you bonkers. 

Fourth: “under-promise and over-deliver.”  For example, promise youself you’ll write “One good blog post per week” (sounds reasonable), and if you write a second or (gasp!) a third post — you’ve over-exceeded a reasonable goal by 300 percent!  Granted, this is related to “pace” but it extends to other areas such as measurement (see below), commenting on external blogs, developing a new series of Facebook quizzes, etc.

Fifth: measure.  You’ll probably have to do this for your boss, anyway, but even if you don’t, set some reasonable metrics that you’re sure you can readily and easily track.  There are tons of tools, both free (Google Analytics, Facebook Insights) and not-so-free (Sysomos, Radian6) that can give you a grasp on how you’re doing.  Write those goals down and track your progress.

I hope this helped you.  (It helped me!)  Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  A marathon takes training, endurance, and sticktoitiveness.  Mostly sticktoitiveness.

Happy Agency = Happy Client

New ImageI won’t lie to you: Mobclix is a tough client.  Mobclix is the largest mobile ad exchange, led by some of the original founders of BlueLithium — another hot start-up acquired by Yahoo for $300M in ‘07. 

In other words, they’re a hot Silicon Valley property, and they know it. They demand results that match their status.

(Luckily, we’re up to the challenge.)

As you can imagine, there are days when the levels of commitment required to keep a client like Mobclix happy cause some frustration amongst Agency staff.  And that’s not unique to Mobclix: pretty much every cool start-up relies on their Agency team to give 110% every day. 

What’s interesting to me as an agency principal is the differences in how start-ups treat their agency partners, and the resulting action/reaction they get from their teams. 

No surprise: regardless of the difficulties of the client’s story, ultimately great clients get great results, tough clients get good results.

The gang at Mobclix get this.  In fact, yesterday they arrived at SHIFT Communications’ San Francisco offices in 2 stretch limousines, and carted the entire PR team to a luxurious spa for a full manicure/pedicure treatment!   

That’s the kind of event that our client contacts needed to brainstorm about — it was so much more ambitious than calling 1–800–Flowers.  Although we’ll never turn away a gift basket, the mani-pedi-limo party clearly set a new bar for client gratitude. 

More importantly, you could sense the happy buzz that this event caused across the entire office.  We were ALL happier, across ALL teams, knowing that the Agency’s hard work was being recognized.

There will come a day in the not-so-distant future when a member of the Mobclix PR team at SHIFT will find themselves working late in the office, trying to reach an overly-ambitious outreach goal.  When that day happens, my guess is that they’ll be happy to do so. 

(Well, happier.  At least they’ll think twice about biting their nails in frustration.)

What’s the best thing a client has ever done for you?  Did it make you work harder for them in the long run?

ROI of Social Media Marketing

Last month, Forrester Research’s Augie Ray published a report on The ROI of Social Media Marketing that I’ve recently had a chance to take a highlighter to: there are a lot of sensible nuggets in the document; it’s a must-read for any marketer.

For example, in making the case for a “Balanced Scorecard” approach to Social Media Marketing ROI, Mr. Ray posits that many brands fail to measure true business value.  “A mass of followers that ‘like’ the brand but never return to the fan page is far less valuable than a handful of followers who frequently share brand updates with friends.”

This gets back to SHIFT Communications’ oft-cited credo, “Campaigns do not create relationships but relationships can buoy campaigns.” In too many cases, the “best practices” espoused by digital agencies are less about “serving the community” and more about driving a rush of new fans, without much thought re: how to keep those fans engaged on a LONG-TERM basis.  But, that’s another blog post.

Mr. Ray also wisely notes that Social Media’s shiny-object status should not make it the best or only thing to measure:  “With offline, online, and social strategies increasingly integrated, attributing value to the ‘last touch’ on social networks can result in undervaluing other marketing vehicles.”  Halellujah.

Social-media-balanced-scorecardMost importantly, Forrester’s report demands marketers “align measurement to all corporate objectives, not just sales.”  A brand must take into account factors such as Risk Managment, Branding, and Digital Effectiveness as well as Financial ROI.  Mr. Ray provides a simple, great example of how these factors play together:

“Financial results are important but even when marketers can easily measure direct sales, they must not forget to test other important results.  Frequent promotions seeded into social channels may generate inexpensive sales but can damage brand health by decreasing the attention from consumers, or substituting affinity for the brand with affinity for discounts.” (Emphasis added.)

The “Balanced Scorecard” approach that Forrester ultimately proffers to marketers is well worth consideration … But I wonder how many corporate marketers have the tools and systems, partnerships and perspective required to do it justice??

Show some social media love would ya?

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