agency partner

5 Tips On Hiring An Agency Partner In 2017

As 2017 unfolds with a high degree of uncertainty on the horizon, timing couldn’t be better for top leaders to evaluate their marketing and communication strategies with an eye on building trust with, and demonstrating purpose to, key constituencies.

In a world where bigger is no longer better, and one-size fits all models no longer work, leading brands are looking to collaborate with a group of smaller agencies to meet a list of growing niche communication needs. This is a significant reversal from the singular relationships with big communication conglomerates that dictated the market in the past.

Consequently, following is a list of key things to consider today when choosing an agency partner:

1) Remember small is the new big.

Whether you are going with a large traditional firm or a smaller insurgent, it is important to understand whether the partner you choose has the ability to turn with the alacrity of a speedboat as opposed to the lethargy of an ocean liner.

Innovative creative firms function with an entrepreneurial and agile mindset no matter what their actual size.

Today strength is not determined by magnitude or heft, it is determined by an ability to constantly evolve, change, disrupt and create in real time, and ahead of competitors. There are no rules to follow to succeed, only ones to shatter to find better paths forward toward profitability and meaningful engagement.

The right agency partner will be driven by this maverick thinking, have scale and a breadth of offerings, but be small enough to be able to help you move in lockstep with both your industry and the cultural landscape you are seeking to communicate and engage with.

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

2) Look for a singular focus and vision.

Effective marketing and communications today happens through niche offerings and expertise. No one partner can or should be good at all things. The broader business environment no longer functions that way. Just look at the renewed singular focus of market giants like GE and P&G who have recently shed bloated conglomerate structures to return to their historical industry cores of industrial vision and consumer packaged goods innovation.

The right agency partner will present a strategic vision that offers end to end solutions comprised of niche offerings and expertise that can deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Be reminded of the acclaimed Steve Jobs adage of doing one thing and one thing better than anyone else when building your creative partnership teams.

3) Be as mindful of outcomes as creative thought.

Today marketing and communications are as responsible for driving business strategy and innovation as they are awareness, so being sure your agency partner is as riveted on results as they are on creative is critical.

The right creative or agency team will lead as much with a focus on measurable outcomes as they do with creative ideation.

Big ideas today are a dime a dozen. What’s more rare is seamless delivery of creative services that reach the people you want to connect with where they already live, work and play.

In today’s environment, no one should still be talking about quantity reach in the way of general impressions, views or likes. All of those are a given if a campaign is to be successful. What is more important is to look out for partners who can deliver reach to target groups in ways that elicit specific calls to action, the attainment of agreed upon overall business outcomes and real engagement that can be converted into positive business results.

4) Recognize that if you don’t have a great content strategy, social media and other distribution ideas are irrelevant.

Too often marketers make the mistake of having the goal of increasing their brand’s social media presence as opposed to first thinking through the right approach to content creation and management.

Think of it this way. You can have the most beautiful Maserati, but if you don’t maintain it and fill it with the right fuel, you still won’t win the race.

The very same thing is true with social and digital media. You can have the greatest presence on Facebook, with tons of followers and likes, but if you don’t consistently push out a stream of content that is designed to instigate action with the right people or drive toward specific business outcomes, what real value is there in your bright and shiny social media platform?

The right agency partner will work with you to uncover the most meaningful and resonant data and stories that your brand already possesses and push you to transform these assets into vibrant and engage-able content that can and will deliver the type of results your senior leadership team is seeking.

5) Connect with and hire great talent that can and will execute for you daily.

Too often the bait and switch move that has been defining agency reputations for decades still rears its ugly head. You know when you are pitched by a team of senior talent who bring out all the bells and whistles that you never see again after signing on the dotted line?

When selecting an agency or creative partner today remember it is you who is in the driver’s seat, with a more important and visible role to the CEO than ever before.

Your agency team should be as accountable to you as you must be to your senior leadership for any partnership to work, and the foundation of such success begins and ends with great talent, at all levels.

There has never been a time with more choices for marketers in the creative realm. Rarely does the one big agency model still work, so competition for business is keen and affords you the opportunity to push for the very best resources and talent and receive it.

When selecting your agency partner, make sure that the talent in the room is the talent you will be working with day in and day out. Check for creative chemistry, a senior leadership anchor who will drive the business for creativity and consistency, and ask for examples of work executed in an end to end fashion. Great ideas are not that rare. What is however is an ability to execute with consistency, scale, fluidity and an unrelenting commitment to excellence.

The year ahead is one where the role of the CMO will only continue to rise in importance. Step into the driver’s seat, find the correct partner to ride shotgun and don’t be afraid to floor it as there has never been a more exciting or opportune time to be a marketer. So start your engines and enjoy the ride!

Billee Howard helps brands use storytelling as a competency that informs business strategy, culture development and growth. She also wrote WeCommerce, a book on collaboration in the new economy.

Note: This article was originally published on Billee’s Forbes Blog

purpose driven brands

What We Can Learn From These 3 Purpose-Driven Brands

Harvard Business Review defines purpose as: 

“An aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization and its partners and stakeholders and provides benefit to local and global society.”

What this means to me is that the greatest opportunity any leader has is to establish a clear and accessible, inclusive vision for the future that makes tomorrow better than today.  A vision that people can trust in and rally aroundIt is reasonable to expect a respected and visionary leader to assess the state of affairs, harness insights from all constituencies, inside and outside of the organization, to define a purposeful vision and narrative that engages all stakeholders.  But what path is the most authentic for your brand to take?

Our collaborative purpose-driven economy is impacting businesses of all kinds, as people increasingly want to do business with, and work for, brands that contribute as much to the world at large as they do the bottom line.   We know that consumers are no longer engaging with communications focused on products and services – the what you do, but rather, they are looking for aspirational stories that give them a reason to believe – the why.  I believe that future leaders will create strategies grounded in purpose and inclusion that bridge the gap between the private and public sectors.

collaborative economy

‘Purpose’ is a big word and is somewhat unapproachable to many leaders, but it needn’t be. It’s important to note that leading with purpose is not a one size fits all approach.  It can take many shapes but must be authentic to your brand. To illustrate this, I thought I’d share three examples of purposeful leadership that might serve as a thought-starter to begin a dialog and create a ‘way in’ to get you thinking: ‘Hey, I do something like that?’ or ‘How do I define a purpose that is authentic to my brand?’ or ‘Does purpose matter for my company?’

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

  1. Small steps have huge impact Mark Benioff, CEO Salesforce

Named one of the top innovators by Forbes, Mark Benioff’s most unique quality is his commitment to societal issues.  One of his quotes encapsulates this philosophy: “The business of doing business is to improve the state of the world.”   When Benioff started Salesforce, he established the 1-1-1 model – called Pledge 1% – whereby Salesforce contributes one percent of product, one percent of equity, and one percent of employee hours back to the communities it serves globally.  With Benifoff’s purposeful leadership, Salesforce removed the barriers of giving to create change and create a community of good people doing good things.  The impact of his leadership has led to powering 28,000 nonprofits with Salesforce technology, more than $115 million in grants and 1.3 million employee volunteer hours.  An added benefit to the world, a pay-it-forward moment if you will, is that Benioff’s vision for caring as much about the world as he did the bottom line has inspired more than 700 companies to adopt the Pledge 1% – and, we can only imagine, that these 700 companies inspired more companies to join Pledge 1%, and so on and so on.

  1. Create a rallying cry around a grander issue Neil Blumenthal & David Gilboa, co-CEOs Warby Parker

The four founders of Warby Parker (Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa Jeffrey Raider & Andrew Hunt) began with a simple mission to make affordable, fashionable eyewear and committed to a familiar pay forward a pair of glasses, or the value of a pair of glasses with every pair purchased – over 1 Million pairs paid forward so far.   They were named one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company, in part because of their innovative retail strategy, but also because Blumenthal & Giboa’s leadership went one step in their commitment to make the world a better place and further and included a larger global issue in their vision – sight.  More than 15% of the world’s population are unable to work or learn properly because they have eyesight problems.  Without proper eyesight, those already suffering from low incomes are likely to be trapped in poverty indefinitely with an economic loss estimated at over $200 billion, annually. Blumenthal & Giboa’s leadership has led to funding entrepreneurial activities in the developing world related to sight and have begun to change the narrative on ‘sight’ for future generations.

  1. Competition meets Compassion Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO Chobani

Named one of the most innovative companies of 2017 by Fast Company, Hamdi Ulukaya forged a new kind of leadership – one that fuses competitiveness with an unusually strong sense of compassion.  Ulkaya’s leadership is in line with how we counsel our clients at BRANDthropologie – the new economic engine where business growth and innovation is fueled by collaboration between the private and public sectors contributes to the world, as much as the bottom line. Under Ulukaya’s leadership, his vision is to make the world a better place not just for some, but for all the communities that they touch.  In just the past year, Ulukaya has led with compassion and empathy and put a great deal of thought into cultivating a internal culture of warmth and enthusiasm that most people wouldn’t associate with a factory setting, launched a program to give away up to 10% of the Company’s equity to their workers and instituted a generous six-week parental-leave policy.  And, this vision connects with consumers as well, as Chobani has captured more than 19% of the overall yogurt market?

I think we are in a new era where leaders must think about how they can bridge the gap between the public and private sectors, change the way we work and look at and engage with the communities in which we live. The future is now.  There is a call to action for purposeful leadership that thinks beyond the bottom line to make tomorrow better than it is today.  How will you lead?

Todd A. Myers is the Chief Strategy Officer at BRANDthropologie Media. He will lead client engagements to directly connect purpose positioning to value creation and content solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddMyers123


do better

Do More, Do Better

I know where my passion, expertise and skill set lie and the cultures in which I thrive. Working with smart people, brand marketing & partnerships, consumer insights & cultural trends that allow me to see and understand ‘what’s next’, content development & perhaps most importantly, doing something that positively impacts the world.

This probably helps explain why I have been happiest and most fulfilled in my career when I have guided brands to the future based on new technology and trends in ways that changed the way business is done, and allowed me to flex my entrepreneurial muscles in a manner that transcended mere profit to yield true purpose.

My current collaboration with Billee Howard – BRANDthropologie Media – is a creative consultancy built around purposeful inclusion that fuses all of my passions under one umbrella. What I’m most thrilled about my new role is the canvas I have to work with top brands, and the leaders who steward them, to begin to etch out what positive and meaningful change can and should look like in these polarizing times.  To provide the most value that bridges the gap between the public and private sectors and activate powerful change, we have developed a methodology that helps brands identify their purpose and then creates the content experiences that will help define distinction and positively impact the bottom line.  Think McKinsey meets NBCUniversal. McKinBC!  FINALLY, a role that gives me license to meld my business acumen with my passion for creativity and content.  FINALLY, a role that lets me unite my professional aspirations with my personal interests to effect positive transformation.

I am a risk taker, and as such, am not unfamiliar with being too early to the party with a product, idea or solution, but this feels different.  We are at a cultural flashpoint where it’s never been more important for brands to pick up the ball that the Government has so obviously fumbled.  I believe that what we have fought for so hard in the past – everything from basic civil rights to (more specific) disability and LGBTQ rights will continue to be called into question amidst this time of great uncertainty and upheaval.  As a result, we must all step up and have our voices count as the fight has just begun.  In today’s environment, the private sector can be a powerful amplifier of our voices, and our partner in not only maintaining the impactful changes of the past, but also ensuring the promise of further progress that strives to make tomorrow better than today.

My hands down favorite TED talk is Simon Sinek’s ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’.  I affectionately refer to this talk as ‘The Power of Why’.  People don’t buy what you do but why you do it. This mission of finding ways to profit with purpose will not only lead us to the protection of our rights and the continued progress we all crave, but also bring value to the brands leading this charge, setting a new standard of what business excellence should look like. Whether you are a newly-minted graduate choosing an organization to join, a community looking to partner with a brand, OR a shareholder deciding if you should increase your position in a stock, purpose will without question emerge as a critical bellwether in determining the answer to each and every one of these questions.

In our collaborative purpose-driven economy, day-to-day business practice must demonstrate that a brand cares as much about leaving the world a better place as it does about improving its own bottom-line.  I am not alone in this assertion.  Look no further than Fast Company’s ‘Find Your Purpose’ issue, The Harvard Business Review E&Y Study:  The Business Case for Purpose, Davos 2017, or even the purposeful inclusion cadence that set the rhythm for nearly every commercial at this year’s Super Bowl and Oscar Awards broadcast.  It has never been more important for brands to demonstrate that we are stronger together than we are divided.

I’ve had a personal mantra since I lost one of my dearest high school friends several years ago:  Do More, Do Better.  I pledge to live each and every day obeying that guiding mantra and I invite each and everyone of you to join me. United we stand. United we rise.

Todd A. Myers is the Chief Strategy Officer at BRANDthropologie Media. He will lead client engagements to directly connect purpose positioning to value creation and content solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddMyers123