Among many other things, success breeds complacency, which is why so many agencies with outstanding track records can start to fall behind the times. They simply get settled into the comfortable grooves that steadily produce results, leading them to miss the signs that they’re failing to suitably address present-day challenges.
Establishing a legacy of success, then, is about proving time and time again that you can adapt to overcome any obstacle — and right now that means tweaking your operation to flourish in a time of immense global upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves throughout the business world, and the aftereffects will linger for years to come.
Agencies today must contend with a hectic social media landscape that’s responsible for generating huge amounts of revenue (TikTok’s growth in this area has been remarkable), rising standards for everything from user experience to customer service, the ever-shifting power balance of online influence, and the expectation that every brand will have a unique identity.
In this post, then, we’re going to set out some tips for steadily shifting your approach to make your agency more swiftly overcome the many 21st-century trials. Let’s get started.
Commit to updating your existing content
While it’s true that it isn’t enough to keep doing things as you’ve been doing them for years, that doesn’t mean that the path forward lies in scrubbing the slate clean and starting afresh. This is key since the challenges you face (and topics you must address) in today’s digital world aren’t radically different from those in times gone by: they’re evolutionary in nature, not revolutionary.
Take remote working, for instance, an issue that still feels very new to most people. The basic elements people now seek to cover through writing pieces about remote working are the same as those they previously addressed through pieces on general workplace wellbeing and digital transformation: time management, mental health, operational security, etc. (more on this next).
Accordingly, part of your content production pipeline should focus on taking your existing content and updating it. If you have an old blog post about avoiding distractions at work, you can spend an hour or two expanding it with some comments about how things are different when you’re working remotely. That will allow you to pick up some SEO equity without needing to put far more time into creating content from scratch.
You’ll absolutely need to have a reasonable amount of built-from-scratch content, of course: it just shouldn’t be everything you do, because that approach leads to your ever-growing archive of branded content becoming useless within years. Throw in some occasional updates to your old pieces and they’ll continue to return value for a long time.
Improve your remote-working process
We just touched upon the area of digital transformation, and it’s certainly been tricky for agencies to get to grips with the online approach to work. The term agency life has been significant throughout the years because gathering people in a large office always seemed the right move for productivity and morale, but that old-fashioned model is now crumbling.
Even when some people go back to office life, many of their colleagues will keep working from home due to the sheer convenience of it — and their employers will simply need to cope, because there’s no putting this genie back in a bottle. Your agency, then, needs to feature an optimized process for getting work done at a distance.
That means using a centralized system for managing tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. A team that can’t communicate reliably can’t exactly be reactive in any useful way, which is why cloud-based solutions like Asana have skyrocketed in popularity. If you’re not using a tool of that nature as the foundation of your daily operation, this is the time to make the change.
It also means safeguarding your agency when it comes to cybersecurity, because some of the biggest challenges companies now face concern keeping their data protected. While it’s true that the average employee now has a solid awareness of tech issues (they’ll know to use a free password manager like LastPass to cloak their login details, for instance, or spin up a free VPN if they want to conceal their location on a streaming service), they won’t know how to achieve enterprise-level security or even pick up on sophisticated phishing attacks.
The onus is on you to choose suitable software solutions and offer appropriate training to ensure that your workers can make good use of them. There are companies out there that offer cybersecurity courses, so you can outsource core parts of this effort if that would be easier for you: the only thing that matters is that you get the results you’re looking for.
Assemble a team of multi-talented creatives
Written content has been the cornerstone of the online world since the internet was invented, but it isn’t enough to rely exclusively on typical blog-post copy. In the social media era, we all consume both myriad forms of copy (from 5000-word guides to 5-word Twitter quips) and other types of content (such as infographics, explainer videos, or podcasts).
If you’re going to be optimally competitive, you need to embrace these avenues, and that means building a team of versatile creatives who can work together to produce rich and varied content. This may require bringing in a graphic designer, a video editor, an audio producer, a social media manager, and several other roles — but it’s worth it.
In the event that your next selection of prospective customers largely consumes online video (steering clear of blogs), for instance, your only option for establishing a connection is adjusting your content approach accordingly. Don’t get too attached to a particular tactic. Trust in the abilities of your creative team, and aim to keep up with the curve.
Develop skills pertaining to online research and SEO
It’s never been enough to come up with good ideas: were that not the case, almost everyone would count as a professional-level creative, because good ideas aren’t uncommon. What sets a professional apart is their ability to take an idea and turn it into a practical reality — and the process by which they manage that is always in a state of flux.
So what does it currently take to turn ideas into projects and/or pieces of content? Here’s a list of some of the central ingredients: keyword research, social media engagement, trend analysis, competitor analysis, metric tracking, and PR outreach. In other words, modern creatives of all stripes need to know how to use the internet to find information and get their content seen.
There are now successful creative professionals who spend more time each day simply absorbing social media activity than they do actively working on anything. There are also those who painstakingly analyze the fluctuation of Google rankings and devise niche tactics to get their pages ranking highly for actionable and valuable terms.
At a minimum, your content team should be aware of major shifts in relevant industries: big Google algorithm updates, changes to social platform character limits, updates to high-value research tools, etc. You must never forget that the internet is a tool at your disposal in addition to your primary marketplace. Treat it accordingly.
Forge bonds with innovative people and brands
No person is an island, and no agency can succeed in a vacuum. Just as you need people to buy what you’re selling, you need other professionals to spread the word about everything you bring to the table — and while the days of bonding over drinks at lengthy conferences have passed (at least for now), there’s still a great deal of networking to be achieved online.
After all, we live in a time of influencers commodifying the power of their recommendations, and the nature of the internet has produced a remarkably varied selection of influencers. Even if you’re unaware of them, there are creatives and commentators on the fringe of trends with groups of dedicated followers, and they have the power to hugely sway public opinion.
Since one of the big challenges agencies face today is achieving representation across the large number of online channels, it’s key to pick out some suitable influencers and forge some bonds that will keep your brand being mentioned at relevant times. You’ll need to put in the work to make this happen (you’ll likely need to pay some influencers and offer others incentives like free products or services), but that’s the nature of the game at this stage.
If your agency has been in operation for a long time, there’s a good chance that many of its component parts have started to creak. That’s entirely normal, and no reason to panic: instead, you should embrace the opportunity to refresh how you do business. You likely don’t need a full reinvention: instead, use the tips we’ve set out here to incrementally overhaul your operation and make your agency react better to all these challenges. Soon enough, you’ll find it markedly easier to stay on top of the current form of agency life.