Working at a marketing agency is tough. It’s demanding. It’s stressful. It’s time consuming. But it’s also one of the most creative and fun places you can wind up … if you can figure out how to thrive there. Part of thriving in agency life is learning how to work productively with your co-workers.
Here are some tips that will make them hate you less.
#1. Show up
Every day. Every meeting. Every call. If your team mates wonder if you’ll be on time or present at all, they can’t count on you. The mere uncertainty of attendance is a let down.
Really listen. Understand the foundation of problems and ask great questions so you can listen even more. Try to understand the point of view of others. Don’t passively listen. Don’t check your iPhone while someone explains something to you. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Listen. This is how you learn. This is how you provide creative solutions to problems. This is how you build relationships.
#3. Sign Your Work
Don’t put anything out there you wouldn’t want people to know you did. Don’t ask anyone else to either. If you feel you’ve been put in a corner, and you don’t love the work that resulted from the cornering, speak up. As an agency, our work is our good name. Make us proud.
#4. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
If you’re being commended, make sure you share it, publicly, with whoever else is responsible. If it’s not your idea, say so. Be confident, if you’re a talented person you’ll have more than your share of great ideas and will thus have no reason to be credited for someone else’s work. You’ll be surprised how good it feels to prop others up, it’s better than getting the credit yourself.
#5. Think Like a Golfer
Ever watch pro golf? If you do, pay attention to how a pro golfer putts. Notice how long it takes for the golfer to actually swing the putter. Watch how they walk around the green and look at the path from the ball to hole from every possible angle. They know what may look like a straight forward putt from one angle could actually be a challenging putt from another angle. As Sir Ken Robinson says “we don’t see the world directly. We perceive it through frameworks of ideas and beliefs, which act as filters on what we see and how we see it.” Keep that in mind next time you think you immediately know the right answer.
#6. Slow Down
Work diligently of course, but slow down. Talk to people like they matter. Have full conversations. Think concepts through thoroughly. Look up from your monitor to have a conversation with someone. Being busy all the time is not a badge of honor, and should instead be a warning side of your inability to be organized and disciplined.
#7. Don’t Be The Workaholic
Listen, this whole badge of honor for staying late and pushing your timesheet to it’s breaking point is getting out of hand. We all do shitty work after a certain amount of hours, and no one wants to sign shitty work (see Sign Your Work above). Don’t try to set the high score for staying late. Don’t be the one trying to visibility outwork your team.
“Simply outworking other people can have a negative effect on others: that 5× improvement may create a -2× impact on everyone else: if the star demoralizes others and goes out of his way to embarrasses them with his talent, morale and productivity are sure to drop.” – Smashing Magazine
#8. Treat Target Buyers Like People
In marketing we’re generally talking about the “target audience” or our “primary demographic” or the “buyer persona.” But guess who this person is? It’s your mom. Or your dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, etc,. We stereotype people into groups in order to create our create mass marketing messages, and sometimes we forget who we’re talking to. Then this type of jargon starts proliferating around the agency and we begin speaking poorly of those we’re creating marketing for.
If you’ve ever worked retail, then you probably had those moments where you absolutely hate your customers. And yes, coworkers commiserate around their crazy customer experiences, but it’s toxic, and it’s uninspiring. Don’t be the negative person talking shit about your audience. Take it seriously. Talk to target buyers like people. Like they’re your family. Like you’re responsible for what’s being said to them, because you are. This will inspire your coworkers to do the same.
#9. Don’t Throw Shit Over The Fence
Sometimes we’re so bogged down we just want to check boxes. We want to just get shit done and get it out the door. And that’s fine, we all need to ship. But be mindful that when you’re clearing your plate you don’t create work unnecessary work for other people to find and fix.
#10. Don’t Thrash
Done is better than perfect. Think about it, let’s say there are two ad campaigns:
Campaign #1 is pretty good, not perfect, but it’s done and is now running.
Campaign #2 has not made it out of your agency yet. It’s caught up in revision cycles with everyone trying to get it perfect, therefore the campaign is not yet approved. And it’s not running.
Which campaign will yield better results? Probably the one that’s actually running.
Learn more about why thrashing is the biggest threat to any creative project.
#11. Don’t Treat People As Functions
It’s easy to start thinking that Joe is the “email guy.” But when you start using people like tools, that’s all you get. You forfeit all creativity that could come with that person by reducing them to the single task you think they’re good at. Try this little experiment, instead of telling someone on the creative team what you want them to do, tell them your problem and then ask “what do you think we should do here?”
#12. Represent Yourself
More seasoned agency folk have advised that it’s best to not be on anyone’s political team. Don’t jockey for position. Don’t let someone else fall on their face so you can get their job. Do not get sucked into the game. Represent yourself and what you know to be the most fair way to deal with people. Be consistent and be fair.
#13. Hold Your ASAP
Don’t do it. Resist the urge. Everyone always needs everything yesterday. Agency work is always in high demand. Your clients will sometimes pressure you for near impossible deadlines. Don’t pass this stress on to your team. In fact, your team is likely already working on an ASAP project, all they need is another one on their plate. Remember, these are your coworkers, don’t burn them out by always dropping ASAP projects on them. Even if it is ASAP, just let your team know it’s important, and let them get to work. Don’t hover over their desks. Don’t look over their shoulder. You don’t want their “ASAP work” anyway. No one wants work that has been rushed (because no one would want to sign it).
There it is.
Now go out and be a better agency coworker. Want to learn more about thriving at an agency? Check out these posts: