Why Agencies Should Treat their Staff Better

fco I have a friend in the industry. Let’s call him, Mr X. In fact, Mr X could be Ms X. You may know her. Or him. Or maybe not. But even if you did know Mr X, I’d be surprised if you knew Mr X’s tale of agency woe.

Now, Mr X is a smart, likeable person. His clients like him as do his colleagues. He delivers value, and consistently challenges his team to push the boundaries of their creativity. He wins work and commitment, and like many in the industry, works above and beyond the hours that he is paid for.

You’d think he’d be seen as a valuable asset. Especially in an industry where you win work based on the skills, expertise and talent of your people.

But Mr X is a contractor.

And despite winning contract extensions, inspiring the creativity of teams and maintaining a high charge out rate, the agency he works with has not paid him for months. Sure there have been dribs and drabs, but he is now out of pocket stretching back to earlier this year.

Maybe I am an idealist, but I believe in paying people for the work they do.

But the most amazing aspect of this story is the damage that this type of behaviour will do to the reputation of the agency involved. Now, even before social media, the advertising and marketing industry was full of rumour and quiet conversation. But these days, anyone with an internet connection can produce content, share their story or experience – and warn off both clients and potential employees.

Employee conversations are no longer only the secret domain of sites like 2000s icon FuckedCompany.com. And while the names may be changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike, the private wires – the DMs, emails and phone conversations – run hot.

So, next time someone contacts me to ask whether they should take a job with this agency … or next time someone rings and asks whether the agency does good work – guess what my answer is going to be?

And if social recommendation carries as much weight as we in the industry claim it does, then slowly but surely the story behind this story will get out. And the talent pool will dry up. The good and talented people will find good and talented agencies to work for, and the projects, opportunities and clients will follow.

And I bet, for every Mr or Ms X out there, there is a whole alphabet of others sitting silently in the corner eating their own self esteem. If this story resonates with you – know that you are not alone. Write your story and share your experience with others – but keep names out of it. This is, after all, a small, global industry – and we are all adept at spotting a trend.

Are You an Undercover Innovator?

UI-logo I have always had an interest in new stuff. In new ways of doing things. In working smarter, not harder. And I have always been interested in implementing change – not just talking about it.

In many ways, I have always been an undercover innovator – pushing away at the core problem, seeking to transform the businesses where I have worked. Sometimes this has brought me into conflict situations – though this is rare. Most of the time, while I have been the instigator of change or innovation, I have generally been happy enough to take credit for the transformation and its impact – I have never been good or particularly interested in self-promotion.

But I am certain I am not alone in this. I know a lot of people who are beavering away, working on amazing projects, doing interesting and challenging things – and are doing so largely under cover.

So I thought it would be interesting to do some interviews with these folks. The undercover innovators who are changing the way that we work and live. I will start by talking to people that I know – but here’s where you can help!

Are you an undercover innovator? Do you know someone who is?

Drop me a line or leave me a comment – I’d love to interview you. We can do video, podcast, Skype or even email interviews.

Is the Facebook Social Inbox for You?

I remember when webmail first appeared. It seemed like a revolution. Gone was the clunkiness associated with in-office mail clients like Microsoft’s Outlook or IBM’s Lotus Notes. In was speed, flexibility and simplicity. And it also meant that I could read and respond to personal emails at work.

It took me some time, however, to fully shift over to webmail. The ingrained business behaviour of owning your own backup ran deep. I held on and held on to various versions of Outlook (as my operating system upgraded from XP to Vista and so on). But the time and effort (and sheer size of the mail files) associated with this behaviour eventually collapsed under its own weight. Why was I managing my own email data?

When I switched to Gmail things changed pretty quickly. Now I had a single place to consolidate my various email accounts. I had a simple way of logging on from anywhere in the world, and I could quickly and easily search my massive mail archive.

And when the Rapportive plugin for Gmail became available, I could suddenly see a whole world of social connections explode within my inbox. There were connection details about people I was communicating with – email addresses, Twitter IDs, LinkedIn profiles and a raft of other, publicly available information. And while this is a great extension, it only addresses part of the problem.

You see, email is just one of the ways that I communicate with people. I have my blog and the comment streams. I have Twitter. I have LinkedIn and the discussion forums. And I have Facebook. By default, everything is linked via email. That is, it comes back to that unique identifier that marks me out as an individual. But Facebook wants to change that – and has designed its new messaging product to bring a social world to your inbox.

As the video below shows, the Facebook social inbox is poised to bring a range of communication options into one place. You’ll need a Facebook email address first of all (and I am sure there will be a goldrush there). But once you have this, your messaging will be simplified, integrated, altogether more easy. Or so they say.

Now, there are some benefits to the social inbox. In the video, they talk about connecting you with your grandma. They talk about the social inbox being that box of letters that your grandma kept under her bed – a way of remembering all the important moments in your life.

This is a great concept – and a powerful, emotional story. But I don’t want Facebook to be that repository for me. I’d prefer, like a shoebox of letters, to be able to curate exactly what is important and why. In fact I do.

And while I like the privacy features – you can use the Facebook privacy settings to limit and manage who gets into your inbox (hooray for a positive use of the Facebook privacy settings), this is a filter that would not necessarily work for someone with a more open social graph. In that way, Facebook’s social inbox seems more like yet another place for communication rather than a replacement.

Will I use it? Probably (once I receive the special invitation). Will it change the way I communicate? Maybe. But at first glance, I see very little value in this for brands and businesses – unless you’re Facebook. And at a guess, we’ll see another spurt of membership arising out of this.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

While I have been busy with work and travel over the last fortnight, I have still seen plenty of excellent blogs posts worth sharing.

Unfortunately, that has meant that I have been rather quiet on the writing side. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal, regular posting from this week through to Christmas. Buckle in for this week’s favourites from last week.

  1. Shiv Singh shares his experience – this time from the client side. Advice for Agencies provides some insight into what marketers need and value – and recognises that there is no perfect system.
  2. I was on the move when this came out last week, but have taken the time to take a good look through the Altimeter report on The Two Career Paths of the Corporate Social Strategist. Interestingly, when read side-by-side with Shiv Singh’s post, it highlights just how challenging corporate social media can really be.
  3. Adam Lyons provides a great example of how masses of data can be aggregated to identify trends and provide insight. In this post over on the Socialnomics blog, he looks through Facebook data to show that, if you are in a relationship, you’re most likely to be dumped two weeks before Christmas. Comforting thoughts this summer.
  4. If you are involved in social or digital media and have never programmed anything so much as a web page, then take a look at this post by Jeremy Ettinghausen. He shares a presentation on Coding for Dummies and it may well just give you a little insight into how difficult it can be to turn an idea into something that works (let alone something that delights).
  5. Mikal Belicove suggests that Everything You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing, You Already Know. But I bet you still click through to take a read.

Oh No, It’s Movember!

movember10-1 For the last few years at this time I grow a moustache. It’s not just for the sheer style – but to join other men in raising awareness around depression and prostate cancer. This movement, which has now become a global phenomenon is known as “Movember”.

Why do I join in Movember?

This year alone, over 3300 men will die as a direct result of prostate cancer. These men could be related to you – fathers, brothers, uncles. And in many cases – especially when caught in its early stages, prostate cancer can be CURED. But, of course, that means getting the men in your life to see a doctor regularly.

movember10-2 So, if you, or a man in your life is over 50, make sure they get along to their GP to be tested.

The Movember Foundation also supports beyondblue – the national organisation dedicated to raising awareness around anxiety and depression. And as we get nearer to Christmas, you may also want to consider The Perfect Gift for a Man.

What can you do to help?

To start with, you can talk to the men in your life about prostate cancer and depression. Encourage them to talk to each other and to seek help where needed. Then you can: