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The secret to success at an ad agency? Behave like a Brand


 When you work in advertising, you are surrounded by incredibly talented, interesting and creative people. They are hyper aware of messaging and positioning, and they are aware of it not just in their daily lives, but also in their daily interactions.

So here’s some advice about how to shine in your workplace: behave like a really smart brand.

1.   Engage in a conversation – Don’t roll up to a meeting and state your point in a loud, look who’s here kind of way. When a brand is in your face, you tune out. So listen twice as much as you speak, because when you don’t you turn a lot of people off, even when what you have to say is valid.

2.   Give it away for free – Lend a hand on a project; give more of yourself than just 9-5. You’ll create opportunities for yourself in the work week by investing in your agency and coworkers beyond your call of duty.

3.   Be generous – OK, this is similar to #2, but there is a subtle difference. Free = time/money. Generous = spread the gospel. Make it easy for others to do well. “Lauren*, you hit it out of the park, you do it every time. I love working with you.” If it is true, say it, say it often, and say it loud so other people can hear. *Direct reference to working with Lauren Walker, she’s fantastic at her job and a joy to work with.

4.   Use the right message, at the right time, with the right person – The boss you file away your grievances with is the same boss that negotiates your pay. On the flip side, know who you need to talk to in order to get something done, and I promise you that will never be eight people in a room making a decision.

5.   Crowd source – I talk to a lot of people, and I try to take their collective feedback, insights and ideas to the executives I help support. If you’re a leader, you have to know your team. What inspires them? What frustrates them? And if you’re the one frustrating them, are you open to hearing that and changing?

 6.   Know your brand – Where are you weak? Where do you excel? We spend a lot of time thinking about the brands we support and their perception in the marketplace. Have you taken an inventory on yourself lately? And this is a scary one, but if you don’t know yourself really well it’s hard to get others to buy what you’re selling.

 7.   Be relevant – Luke Sullivan is a great example. He wrote the book on writing great ads. He could sit back, all wrinkly and be the Yoda of advertising. But he doesn’t. He has loyal twitter following that would make Guy Kawasaki jealous and he’s constantly digging up cool, new interesting things to share. What are you reading, sharing and doing? Old stogy brands fail, so go open up Wired Magazine and talk to me when you’ve finished reading it.

I’ll get off my soap box. Trust me, some days I don’t succeed at any of these. I welcome feedback, thoughts, comments and arguments.

*Photo Information – for those curious, this photo is the GSD&M Branding Baby. It’s a traveling trophy given to deserving employees.

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