Steve Harrison - read the second extract from his new book

LONDON - In this, the second installment of an exclusive eight-part series of extracts from his new book, How To Do Better Creative Work, Steve Harrison explains how to create an environment in which better work will flourish.

Steve Harrison...co-founder of Harrison Troughton Wunderman
Steve Harrison...co-founder of Harrison Troughton Wunderman

If your senior management really want the agency to produce better work, they should get together and answer these two questions.
 
Q1) What's the point of our agency? 
  
A healthy profit?  Well, I hope this is one of your aims, otherwise why are you in business?  Problem is, you should be able to share your number 1 goal with colleagues and clients.   And it's unlikely you'll tempt your people out of bed on a cold Monday morning with the thought that "today's the day we all take that giant leap towards the 18% year-on-year growth target our FD wrote into the Q1 Forecast."
  
Moreover, if your clients know that "making the numbers" is your primary aim they'll suspect you'll do anything to achieve it.   And they won't be too pleased about that.
  
Speaking of which, should contented clients be your raison d'etre?  Well, that makes sense, too.  You're in business and they're paying the bills.  But a large part of what they're paying for is your expertise and experience.  And sometimes this will lead you to conclusions and recommendations that challenge or contradict your paymasters' assumptions.  Which might not always produce big smiles round at client HQ.
    
No, the primary focus of your attention as managers isn't your clients it is your staff, and your main goal should be this: happy and productive people. 
  
Believe me, without "happy and productive people" you'll struggle to make a regular healthy profit, you'll fail to build lasting client relationships and you won't achieve the consistently high standard of creative for which you're striving.
  
If you want more reasons for aiming for "happy and productive people" try these.  It's expensive to hire and keep top quality staff in your market, but with a workforce of "happy and productive people" you'll find i) that staff don't want to leave so you won’t be looking for replacements ii) that you can pay them between 10 and 20% less than market rate iii) word gets round and you'll easily attract new recruits without having to pay the headhunters' 10-20% fees and iv) the newcomers won't even expect a rise in salary for moving from their old agency to yours - indeed you might find that some are willing to take a pay cut to work with you.
  
Sounds good eh?  But how do you go about producing these "happy and productive people"?   Well it brings us to the second question.
  
Q2) What's our attitude towards work? 
  
I'm afraid to say that the majority of people regard 'work' as a necessary evil - something they do for 8 or 9 hours a day in exchange for a salary which funds the 'real' (and enjoyable) part of their lives. 
      Anyone who has spent a few months on either the client or agency side will have shared an office with these demoralised and distracted souls.   They turn up for work with no real care about who'll be receiving the communications they produce.  As far as they’re concerned, getting those communications out is an end in itself.  They certainly get little guidance from above.  Senior clients just want to spend their budgets otherwise they'll be cut.  Top management in agencies need to keep the fees coming in otherwise there'll be no chance of getting their bonuses.  Meanwhile the foot soldiers look with dead eyes towards the clock and work out how many hours it is before hometime.  Which means the general public receive the same mass produced marketing clichés that went out last quarter and the quarter before that and the quarter….    
Is your agency like this?  Of course not.  Because you take the opposite attitude towards work and you know that, instead of the same old formulas and formats, everyone should be aiming to create that most rare and valuable commodity, a thing of quality.   
 
If you encourage your people to strive for quality they'll identify their goals with yours.  They'll work extra hours in order to achieve those goals and they will do so not for the money you pay them but for the self-esteem they derive from their time on your premises.  Unlike the unhappy wage slaves who are employed by your rivals, your staff will see little difference between their time spent in and out of work.  In fact, there's even a chance they'll go home and tell their loved ones what they achieved that day.    That's how you want your people to feel, isn't it?  Good.  So let's look at how you all go about producing a thing of quality....

To read more, you can buy a copy of the book here

To read Steve Harrison's article in this week's magazine, subscribe to Campaign.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).