By Jason Swenk on January 20, 2016

In this episode, we cover:

  • The one BIG struggle a 15 year old agency experiences
  • 4 ways to overcome the generation gap in the agency workplace
  • The one thing you can do to always keep your agency relevant

My guest has been in the PR and marketing agency world for over 25 years! Liz O’Donnell is an accomplished marketer and communications professional. Currently, she is the Senior VP at Double Forte and took some time to chat with me about staying relevant in our rapidly changing industry as well as how her agency is turning generation gaps from awkward to an asset.

What’s the #1 Struggle for a 15 Year Old Agency?

That’s right – Double Forte has been serving their clients in PR and communications for fifteen years! Liz says, the biggest challenge is staying on top of changes and evolving with them in order to stay relevant. We live in a technology driven era, where there are daily changes to WHAT services we provide and HOW we provide them. As a well-established agency, the leadership at Double Forte is driven to make sure they are still providing the consistent, top-notch service they’re known for, while still staying on top of changes in technology, media and delivery methods.

Liz says there are two typical knee-jerk reactions agencies take when experiencing this struggle:  One is to ONLY hire Millennials, since they are the newest generation in the workforce and first to know/adapt to new trends and technology. The other, is NOT to hire Millennials because their generation is known for being lazy and privileged and might bring down the quality of service. Neither of these is the answer. Instead, Double Forte has embraced a 4 prong solution that is keeping them relevant and thriving while building their team with great and diverse talent.

4 Steps to Overcoming Irrelevancy

1. Talk about it. Double Forte has a generational mix of Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and Millennials. Each generation has their own way of doing things and their own ideas for what is appropriate and acceptable in the workplace. Liz says it’s important to bring these issues to light and have the difficult conversations.

2. Embrace the multi-generational setting. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Boomers and X-ers have the experience and can think strategically, while Millennials are digital natives, so technology is not learned it’s inherent. Use complementary skill sets to your advantage to create current and strategically sound solutions for your clients.

3. Teach instead of judging. Everyone at Double Forte has an EverythingSpeaks box on their desk. It’s a set of reference cards that agency founder, Lee Caraher, developed and it covers everything from texting clients to business meal etiquette to conference call manners. No matter their generation, everyone can learn when they’re provided with the proper tools. They also have training program that covers company culture and expectations as well as systems and processes.

4. Take a lab approach. The best way to get a handle on something you don’t understand is by submerging yourself in it. Liz spearheads a digital team at the agency which meets weekly to discuss new tools, trends and technology. This team manages the agency’s social channels and developed the agency website so they can speak knowledgeably about these platforms. They experiment in so they have first hand basic knowledge of the platforms and tools their clients want (or think they want!).

What Can You Do To Keep Your Agency Relevant?

Get your hands dirty! If there’s a tool or technology that you’ve heard about but aren’t using, give it a try. It doesn’t have to be anything on a grand scale, just enough to give you a base knowledge so you can talk about it intelligibly. For example, if you’ve never tried streaming live video? Try Meerkat or Periscope.

If you’re a digital agency, you probably aren’t afraid of suggesting technology as a solution for your clients… but what about for you and your agency? Experiment with new things that can make you work smarter, not harder. I automate everything from my marketing campaigns to my appointment setting — you should too! 

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