5 Simple Changes to Improve Communications

Remember when the BlackBerry was such a hot item? So much so, it earned the nickname “CrackBerry”. The company’s stock peaked in 2007 at $236 per share. It has started this week at less than $ 7.50 per share.
The reason for its loss of value was not because mobile phones or devices were a passing fad. In fact, there are 7 BILLION smartphones in use today across the globe. That is one per living person in the world! This number contrasts sharply with only 122.3 million in 2007 when BlackBerry hit its highest stock price.

So what caused this once behemoth to fall from being the pioneer and leader of its industry and losing 95% of its value in less than a decade?

The answer: ineffective communication.

Ironically, leaders at Research In Motion (RIM) – BlackBerry’s parent company – could not sustain open and honest lines of communication with their internal teams. The employees did not raise any red flags as deadlines were repeatedly missed. This lack of information prevented the powers that be from solving the problem – let alone even knowing of the issue.
painters-houseIt is like the old sayings: “The painter’s house is never painted” and “The cobbler’s son never has shoes.” We are in the communications industry – as much if not more than BlackBerry – and yet we are the worst communicators. If you find that your agency could improve communications, here are five easy ways to improve your communication skills.

  1. Have a ‘Stand-Up Meeting’ every morning. This meeting should be no more than 10 – 15 minutes and no one sits down to ensure its brevity. Use this time with your team to talk about what is on their plate for the day. It is a great opportunity for everyone to get on the same page and identify any issues with deadlines or workload problems. It is also a way to keep everyone accountable for their commitments.
  2. Document communications. Do not document to “CYA” (cover your assets), but it serves as a reminder to everyone,the discussion that took place. How many times have you committed to something when you pass someone in the hall? Then, by the time you get back to your desk, you have already forgotten it. Having a centralized place everyone can access to record these commitments not only reminds you of your obligation but also keeps everyone in the loop.
  3. Assess your current communication methods. While email and messaging have their place, they may not always be the best means of communication. For one thing, this opposes # 2 on this list in documenting the conversation. Also, some personalities are not prone to read a lot of emails – and those personalities tend to dominate the creative industry. Additionally, they are not accessible to everyone who may need access to that information. It is imperative to implement a tool that allows you to communicate easily with each other, document those communications, organize the communications in a logical and easy to understand way, and allows easy access to the communication history.
  4. Do not attempt to have your systems replace all communications. The biggest reason for the failure of implementing systems that I have observed is when the shop tries to replace face-to-face communications with a system. A system is a tool. Use the tools to help you communicate and to document those communications. Continuing to discuss one-on-one allows the sharing of the emotions and tone of the conversation.personality-type
  5. Know your personality types. This industry consists of every possible personality type. Add to that the stressors we face each day, and you have a time bomb just waiting to explode. Knowing what personality you are communicating with makes it easier to understand how to connect with them. Assessments such as the DISC Personality Profile are tools that can help your team better understand how to communicate and work together more effectively. If you are interested in having the DISC Personality Profile conducted for your team, Agency ADvisor can help.

Most important is that your shop doesn’t lose its core value and the culture that makes it unique. There are many tools out there which can help with communication. Excellent communication is a quality that successful businesses have. It is worth the time and effort spent improving communication to keep the great talent that makes your shop who and what you are. I promise – this is an investment you cannot afford to pass up!

3 Ways Busy is Hurting your Profitability

I remember when I started in this Industry several years ago. Ok, it was many more than ‘several’ years ago! My typical day left me in my cubicle while those in more Senior positions went to meeting after meeting. For myself and others low on the totem pole, it seemed the busier the scheduled commitments, the more important you were. Being involved in meetings was a status symbol.
One would think that with the development of email, messenger, and social media, the number of meetings we have would be fewer and fewer. However, if you work at an agency, you are pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to answer the question “How are you dong” with “Very Busy.”
This is an issue that afflicts agencies across the globe. We have confused being busy with being productive. This has become a huge issue in our Industry – odd for those specializing in Communication. There seems to be a pride element to having a calendar with back-to-back meetings.
I hear from many of my clients that there is a great deal of ‘busy time’ with little productivity. I also hear that the people who are needed most for feedback, approval, and guidance, are the ones who are least available.
The problem is that this ‘busy time’ is not because of actual work, but rather by meetings. Several issues result from these ‘binge meetings’, but they are easily solved.

  1. When meetings are back-to-back, there is no time allowed for digesting and implementing the take-a-ways from any of the meetings. Our Industry, in particular, is affected most by this since creative minds need quiet time to process information input and develop ideas.
  2. We have lost the meaning of meetings. Meetings should result in decisions and assigned action items. Their purpose should NOT be to introduce information or ideas. However, most meetings are held to share information. I see most agencies conduct a job kick-off meeting where the creative brief is shared for the first time with the group. So, a good portion of the meeting is spent either reading or being read the brief.
  3. I have seen agencies get hung up in the billable hour trap. Many agencies are not billing their hours to clients these days, although it is still vital to track the time spent on clients – a discussion for another article. I have spoken with clients in Senior Management who admit they are spending time on client work that they could use in a more productive way. For example, I know of at least one Account Director, who has weekly one-on-one meetings with their Account Managers to keep up with what is going on with the client. This happens even though the Account Managers copy the Director on emails and submit a weekly status report. When questioned as to their reason for these meeting, I heard answers such as “I always had these meetings when I was an Account Manager” and “This is what we have contracted with the client to do.”

It would seem that we have accepted that being busy is a symbol of status in our workplace. The perception is that if you are crazed and too busy, then you are productive.
In reality, the human mind is much like a computer. At some point, you need to pause to let the processor work through the entered information before you get any logical and beneficial answers.

It’s Time to Start Stopping

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The hardest type of change is stopping behaviors that have become habits. Here are Five Stops that will help you grow your agency and become more profitable and less stressful.

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Efficiency – The Equivalent of Having Restrooms

The successful agency of tomorrow will be led by people who cry “better” not “more.” Your clients are paying for having their marketing and communication trepidations resolved effectively, not how fast you solve the problem.

I am not saying deadlines aren’t important and shouldn’t be respected and met. To the contrary, they are and should be but that ought to be a given by now. Ron Baker, one of the founders of Versage Institute, wrote “Efficiency in a professional knowledge firm is not a competitive advantage. It’s the equivalent of having restrooms.” In other words, being efficient is so important that everyone should already be there—just like the restrooms in your office.

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