In our business, we spend most of our time and energy marketing our clients’ brands, but how many agencies really take the time to define and build their own agency brand? If you are part of a large agency network, you cannot depend on the agency’s brand name alone to attract the best talent. If you want to attract the best and at the same time build the agency culture you want, you have to do some due diligence and determine what you want your local brand to stand for.
Most big agencies, have mantras like “the work, the work, the work”, however, every individual office has their own unique brand personality. Just like we approach marketing our clients’ brands in a disciplined way, I would recommend that you apply a similar approach to marketing your own agency. This includes defining your brand personality as well as determining what key success factors or core competencies are necessary to be successful at your agency. Once you have this information, you will be able to recruit more effectively. It’s not enough to evaluate someone just by what is on their resume. The people who are responsible for recruitment at your agency should be assessing the candidate's fit with your brand personality, as well as evaluating the fit against those predetermined success factors. I am a firm believer that if you do your homework on the front end, it will save you from a lot of heartache down the road.
Don’t underestimate the role “fit” that should play in the recruitment process. I know first-hand the downside of not going through the diligence of defining your brand and identifying the success factors. In the past, we hired people who had great experience, but who did not fit with our brand personality. We also hired people who fit our brand personality, but who did meet our success factors. Needless to say, neither of these situations worked out for us.
These criteria should be part of your applicant evaluation process as well as your performance review process. We developed a custom 360 tool that incorporates our success factors and brand personality. We also created applicant evaluation forms. Everyone is hired and evaluated against the same criteria. As a result, with every interview, every time you evaluate someone and even when you are doing a self-evaluation, you reinforce the values and success factors that make the agency unique.
Many large agencies have smaller field offices across the country and headquarters often heavily influence most of these smaller offices. Typically they have one dominant client and are, for the most part, in their headquarters’ “shadow”. I know because we were once in that very situation.
What did we do? We took a big step back and asked ourselves some questions:
- How did we want our clients/prospects to view the agency?
- How did we want our employees to feel about working at the agency?
- What traits did we want everyone in the agency to possess, regardless of level?
We were very diligent about this and I have to say that over the past few years, it continues to pay off. We now have a diverse roster of accounts and are no longer dominated by one account. We are doing work that is being recognized. And finally, we are able to recruit from the top shops across the country and hire the best for our agency.
This isn’t to suggest that candidates shouldn’t also interview agencies. On the contrary, a quality prospective employee should want to know these things about an agency before they join. Each agency is different, each with their own culture and values system. Not every agency is for everyone.
In closing, if your agency is facing hiring challenges, perhaps it is time to do some internal marketing and determine your unique brand personality and your success factors. It will only benefit you in the long run. If you are an employee looking to make a change, make sure that you fit with the agency and the agency fits with you. Remember that you are joining an agency and not an account.