Why I Started an Agency
As the title of this post implies, I started my own communications agency.
There are tons of agencies out there for companies to turn to when they’re looking for marketing help. Ad agencies. PR agencies. Digital agencies. Content agencies. SEO agencies. Branding agencies. It’s a crowded and competitive landscape. Yet, I decided to enter it and start my own.
I worked in PR agencies for over eight years - small, midsize and large. I enjoy the agency life - the change of pace, the camaraderie, the diversity and the exposure to the broader business activities from the operations side. There are a lot of good aspects to working at an agency and I embrace those.
Over the eight years I spent working at other agencies, I was exposed to a number of different approaches to running them, servicing clients, managing people and doing work. I learned from both the good and the bad. These different philosophies and experiences formed the basis of the professional I am today. They helped me develop as not only a comms professional, but as a mentor, manager and leader.
As I thought more and more about my career growth path, the different stops along that path and what ultimately would lie at the end of it, I started to realize I had a very clear vision. That vision was of the type of agency where I wanted to work. And as I kept thinking about that vision and that ideal I’d formed in my head, I realized it didn’t exist.
At first I found that frustrating. At other times, disheartening, sometimes even maddening. The concepts of this vision seemed so simple, how could they not already be in place somewhere? I found myself thinking about how I make this vision a reality. I talked about it with those close to me - a lot. Finally it reached the point where my wife said to me, “you need to stop talking about this and do it. You’ve been talking about it for a while. I know you can do it. You know you can do it. Just decide you’re going to.”
And I did.
I set out to create a communications agency that’s different than the others that exist.
The agency vision I formed in my head had several components that were very important to me:
- Employee-driven. Employees shouldn’t be looked at as bodies that can be billable. They’re an organization’s biggest asset and should be used accordingly. Employee’s strengths and interests are opportunities for an agency. I want an agency that works with its employees to put them in the best possible position to succeed and provides them opportunities to pursue projects and roles that interest them personally. Some people want leadership roles and should be positioned to track toward them; others don’t want that responsibility and shouldn’t be forced into it.
- Strategic. I’ve written before about a lack of strategy in the PR industry. It’s very important to me that my agency goes beyond tactics and acting as a support function. Anyone can carry out orders. An agency adds value when it’s seen as a strategic partner and counselor to clients. I want an agency that will give clients what they really need rather than what they think they need.That's the value of a partnership. A client should come to us because they need our expertise. If they just want someone to execute on what they already know, hire a contractor.
- Creative. This certainly isn’t true for all agencies across the board, but in my experience, I’ve found that some PR agencies have a tendency of templatizing their client programs. The same general structure is given to each client. That’s an extension of the lack of strategy. I want an agency that thinks critically about the best ways to meet a client’s objectives, not the easiest ways.
- Analytical. Measurement tends to be a checklist. Reports are provided to clients containing data, but it’s not interpreted. There are no insights given. It’s just a mass of numbers. I want an agency that analyzes data and then actually applies it to a client’s program.
- Fearless. I look at fearlessness in the agency world as individuals being able to operate outside their comfort zone. I’m not talking about getting crazy and doing things you have no idea how to do, but rather not being intimidated to learn new things and taking calculated risks - reaching outside the traditional marketing silos that have taken over within many companies. I want an agency that isn’t afraid to try something new or different.
So to answer why I started my own agency, I did it because people in this industry deserve to work at a place that truly values them. I did it because clients deserve an agency that will really have their best interests at heart and isn’t scared to give opinions. I did it because the modern agency needs a jolt of innovation and evolution.
I started an agency to create the type of place where I, and many others I’ve talked with, want to work.
This post is syndicated from its original publishing on LinkedIn.