I Made A Decision, And You'll Never Believe What It Is!

Have you ever stopped to look back at something you’ve done with a large sense of pride, not in a boastful or narcissistic way, but genuine respect for what you’ve accomplished? I have. I am now. In July I stepped off of the coffee industry carousel, and joined the team at a large, very successful marketing agency. It was the job I’d wanted, with the company I’d really been shooting for. I knew it would mark the beginning of a new chapter of my life, in my 40th year of living. I knew it would be hard, I knew it would take time, and I knew there’d been a large learning curve.

I had no idea how hard it would be. I’ve said it before, and it stands repeating, that it was and has been, the hardest thing I’ve done as an adult. I learned very quickly how little I really knew. I learned that there is a large side of the business of social media and marketing that I never knew existed. I learned about analytics, and how to measure them. I learned what to do with those analytics. I learned about paid media, from how it works to how to best target and leverage it. I learned how to craft full statements and ideas in less than 130 characters (once you incorporate a hashtag.) I learned about the challenges of writing content for large brands like Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UPS and Chick-fil-A. I learned what an archetype is, and how to embody one for the sake of writing content. I learned how to create structure for myself so I could do my job well. I learned methods to eliminate mistakes, whether they be grammatical, structural or strategic, and I’m proud to say I make very few mistakes these days, and the ones I do are small. 

Yep, I’ve made a ton of mistakes in learning along the way. I’ve said it before, but most mistakes in social media only become “mistakes” after they’ve been made. There’s not a rule book for social media, and in helping create social media policies for our agency I’ve learned there’s no real consensus for what’s ok or not ok to post personally as an employee of an agency, even within our social team. I’ve had to learn tools I’d never learned to use before. I had to learn Powerpoint to create social strategies. I’ve had to learn to use Excel to read analytics and create insights and recommendations. I’ve had to learn community management tools, all of them different, all of them promising to make life easier. And I’ve had to battle my own self-doubt on a regular basis. 

So, where am I today? Well, I’ve learned a lot, and am using it to grow. And grow, I have. I’ve also learned what I’m good at, and what I’m not. I’ve learned what my strong points are, and where I have more work to do. Working at a large agency has allowed me to really see where I might fit into all of this, and has reassured me that I do have a good skill-set that has real value in the world of marketing. I’ve also learned that it takes a special person to work at an agency, and it takes the kind of person who can take on 5 clients at a time, and do content, community management and other things for them on a daily basis. I’ve been honored to get to work alongside amazing people that are AMAZING at working in this world, heck, Engauge’s whole social team. But it’s time for me to hang up my Engauge coat, and move on. Think the last episode of The Office.

I will say that I owe a giant debt of gratitude to several people at Engauge who gave me a chance, who mentored me, and who taught me the ropes of agency life. Thank you to Teresa Caro and Danielle Donnelly, who believed in me enough to give me a chance. I can’t say enough how much their leadership and tutelage has meant to me. Thanks to Lindsay Howard and Chelsey Binkley who took me under their wings and taught me so much about my job. And thanks to the social team and Team Mike for taking me in as one of their own. If there’s one thing that I’ll miss about Engauge, it’s not the Beer Cart Fridays or Free Lunch Fridays, it’s the people. Engauge has some amazing people working there, doing amazing things everyday. I have absolutely loved building relationships with these folks, and will continue to be friends with them after. 

Never stop learning. Never stop growing. Cheers to the journey.

(What’s next? You’ll hear about it very soon.)

P.S. How’d you like that Upworthy worthy title, huh? :-)

What Is It Like Working At A Large Digital Agency?

I am officially three and a half months into my new career at a digital agency, working on some of the largest brands in the country. I have shared it before, but it’s been the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life. It has been a lot of work transitioning into a more structured environment, and I’ll keep working on it as long as I need to. I still absolutely love my agency, love the people I get to work alongside, and am glad I made the move. I thought I’d take a few minutes and give you my observations for what it’s like to work at a large digital agency on national brands. 

  1. Things moved very fast-paced. Deadlines are daily. Deliverables are due constantly. I’ve had to learn to make sure I get deliverables due and turned in on time. I’ve not done this perfectly each time, because I’ve gotten busy working on other things that have deadlines and missed a few. This is something I will absolutely be working to correct, and have put things in place for the future to make sure I don’t miss deadlines. 
  2. You will be working on something different almost every day. Campaigns come and go. You will probably be working on several accounts at one time. I have been working on Wells Fargo and Chick-fil-A, but am transitioning onto Coca-Cola. Brands change their budgets, move campaigns around, and even in the agency, folks move around to keep fresh minds and eyes on accounts. 
  3. It’s all about the details. I am used to working in very organic environments, with no structure, and that definitely will not cut it in an agency. Before work is handed over to account managers (who then hand it over the clients), everything should be neat, tidy and ready to go to the client. That means making sure all formatting is proper and consistent. That means that words should be correctly spelled, names correctly spelled and everything is lined up properly. It should be lots of information sometimes, and not as much others. It should be exactly what the client needs. I have learned an amazing amount from Lindsay Howard and Katherine Lehmann about this, and I will work as hard as I can to get better at this. 
  4. Collaboration is a way of life. In an agency, the social team works with the account team works with the creative team works with the analytics team. They all work together to make sure the client gets the best quality product. I don’t know how often I connect with Jessica, on our analytics team, to understand metrics and data to figure out how to differently target or shape future content or strategy.
  5. Tools will be your best friends, and your enemy. Not hammers and screwdrivers, mind you, but social tools like listening tools, community management tools and the like. With names like Shoutlet, Crimson, Cotweet, Sprinklr, hyfn8 and others, they all promise to make your life easier, and do in some ways. But, they’re not perfect, and I found that out last week, when I realized the listening tool I was using to monitor for tweets for a “surprise and delight” campaign we were doing for a brand wasn’t pulling in all the relevant tweets. So, then I went to native, straight through Twitter, and was able to find more tweets that weren’t showing up. Another tool I’ve used has had days of downtime before. They’re not perfect, but they can be great help, and although I’ve never used any of these before, they need to be learned, and I am.
  6. You must love big data, and you cannot lie. The reality is, that no company is going to pay for marketing that can’t be proven worth it. And that’s definitely true for social media marketing. All social strategies have objectives, and those objectives have KPIs (key performance indicators) behind them to measure their success. We live and die by these numbers. Reports are written each month with this data, content is changed or amplified, strategy is reviewed, and each month repeated. I’ve had to learn to understand these metrics, how they’re affected and how future changes could potentially alter future metrics. We live and die by these metrics, and we have a great analytics team that helps us with this. 
  7. Your hours will vary from day to day, week to week, depending on what you have going on. I don’t have set hours. I usually try to get in by 8-8:30, and I try to leave by 5 to beat traffic up 75N, which gets really fierce. Some days this works, some days I work till 6:30. I’ve been the first person in my area there, and I’ve been the last one to leave. It will depend on what you have going on and when it’s due. There are also days when I get home, log on and do more work. It’s not as much as my previous job, but it’s whatever it takes. 
  8. You will work hard, you will play hard. There is a great fun culture at an agency, at least at ours. You may have seen we have Beer Cart Fridays, Free Lunch Fridays, free ice cream, massages, breakfasts and other things. This Halloween we’re all dressing up like the characters from Mario Kart. Tomorrow is Spirit Day, and we’re all wearing purple to support for LBGT youth and take a stand against bullying. We celebrate each others birthdays like there is a prize for the best celebration. Yes, we have a nap room. Yes, we have a ping ping room. (I’ve never gotten to use either.) We work hard, we play hard. We play hard, but we also work hard. 
  9. You will not know everyone at your office. There are lots of people in our office, there are lots of teams, and lots of managers. They all work on different things, so you may not meet or know them all. That’s ok. As you move around and work with other managers, creatives and analysts, you will learn more. I see people every day that I’ve not met. Yet. 
  10. You must be a Transformer. You don’t just work for (your agency name), but you work for (brand name.) You must learn each company’s brand voice and tone and speak as they would speak, say the things they would say, and why they would say it. You become an invisible extension of these brands. The public thinks when they see a tweet from (brand name), it’s coming from (brand name)’s HQ, and in some cases it could be, but most of the time, it’s coming from an agency like Engauge, from someone just like me. The coveted, beloved and well-known OREO Superbowl tweet didn’t come from OREO, but from 360i, their agency, working alongside the key brand folks from OREO in a command center in NY. When the public thinks of the success of that tweet, they think of OREO, not 360i, but agencies play an important role as invisible front line participants in the social space. In many ways, you become an employee and ambassador for the brand you’re working on, despite receiving your actual paycheck from an agency. 

I am learning three and a half months into it, what I’m really good at, and what isn’t my strongest suit. I am not the best at minute details just yet, but am working on it, as well as learning more of the structure needed. I am good at writing content quickly, and capturing a story in a small space of less than 140 characters. I’m also good at creating and fleshing out a strategy. I think I’m a big picture person, and am learning to get better at the smaller picture stuff, the Devil is in the details. I’m also getting better at reading data and metrics and making recommendations from them, although at the same time needing to work on how those recommendations are worded and reported. This is Jason reporting in at 3 ½ months. Over and out.