What it says on the tin
Unlike retail stores, offices aren’t open houses; an office is the “behind-the-scenes” of an organisation for which you need a backstage pass to enter. Companies in the service industries don’t have the luxury of a site from which to offer quality meet-and-greet time to the customers.
Internet is thus the equivalent of a storefront for most service-based enterprises, and I will use the example of an advertising agency to discuss the importance of online presence and brand building.
I have previously mentioned the importance of practicing what you preach; indeed it is the very raison d’être for this blog. The principles I use to market myself are the same as I intend to apply to my employer’s clients; keywords being authenticity, openness and walking the walk, as opposed to merely talking the talk.
For an advertising agency this principle would manifest itself along similar lines as it does for me. They provide marketing services to clients, and the least one should expect from a marketing expert is for them to excel in creating and maintaining their own brand.
It is safe to assume that prospective clients will conduct a little desktop research before inviting agencies to pitch for their business. Leaving them with only an outdated website is risky business and I find it surprising that many agencies keep showing the world the rundown front of a shop which looks like it’s been uninhabited since last May. They claim to be the experts on brands don’t care enough about their own to keep their website even remotely up to date.
Social media shouldn’t be employed just for the sake of it; however in a dynamic and creative industry like advertising, it makes sense to be involved in the online social sphere. An actively managed agency-brand has the potential to attract and retain both clients and employees.
Here’s how I see a potential division of roles for online tactics for an agency’s self-promotion:
Website: An agency’s website is the foundation of the brand; a carefully managed image and a demonstration of the best that the agency has to offer. You won’t really get to know an agency through their above-the-line façade, so you’re looking to be guided towards slightly more impulsive communication channels.
The website provides the agency with a platform from which to present its people and philosophy. It’s great for showcasing show reels, case studies and their proudest moments of the past. The website is the packaging of the product, so design and functionality becomes important. Ideally there is a creative concept and overall structure. Mother and Naked are great examples; Mother also having gone through a full renovation of the concept several times. For years their website featured nothing but contact info – a bit likePublicis Mojo – to me, this made the brand even more mythical and fascinating. It’s not many agencies that are in a position to pull this off though.
Regardless of which media platforms were used; Mother created a great brand, and in the process demonstrated their skills instead of talking about them.
I don’t know too much about Mitchell, but by the look of their website, they’re better accountants than marketers.
While the website is the retouched outcome of a professional photo shoot, the blog is where the model must engage in conversation and prove she is more than a great exterior.
Blog: This is where the agency shows off its personality and has the chance to shine. However; if they fail to provide their readers with substance, good intentions may backfire on them. Here, content is king and design is nothing. As all marketing in the New Brand Democracy, blogging is risky business; inviting criticism and putting oneself under pressure to constantly perform. From the perspective of a new reader, the agency is only as good as it latest post.
A blog should inspire and educate clients and employees – potential and existing. Regular updates will potentially ensure a perception of the agency as being progressive and ambitious; made up by people who are passionate about their industry and their clients.
Through commenting on current (relevant) events, new research, their work and best-practice around the world, the agency can convey its strengths as a knowledge-based enterprise.
Being the personality of the agency is actually a truth with modifications; the blog presents the professional side of the agency; the formal one which thinks before it talks. Twitter, however, is the darker half:
Twitter: Twitter is the agency in real-time; its live-to-the-world broadcasted Oscar speech – pre Michael Moore and seven-second delays. This is the after-hours version of the brand; it is informal, funny, social, less serious and more human. And probably a good reflection of what the culture is like at the agency; what they’re like to work with and for.
It all comes down to presenting an authentic and holistic view of the brand. If it can make a good impression while ‘uncensored’; the brand becomes more credible and people will have fewer inhibitions against interacting with it.
The combination of skills and human resources is what online media should aim to communicate, and the impression with which the reader should be left is: They have created a great brand for themselves so they can probably create a great brand for my company too.
An agency which is a great brand makes their employees proud to be working for the agency; it attracts the best in the industry; the agency produces better work; leading to an even stronger brand. And so it goes…