Avoid These Design Agency Self-Promotion Issues

Problems, and Solutions, for the Tricky Task of Self-Promotion

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Self-promotion is perhaps one of the trickiest projects any advertising, marketing or design agency can undertake. It seems odd to outsiders that this would even be an issue. After all, when you're the client, surely you can do whatever you want, right? Well, sadly perception is much more idealistic than reality. Here then are the reasons why self-promotion is so tough, and a few basic guidelines you can follow to ensure this task is both a fun and creative one and not a monkey on your back.

Landmines of Self-Promotion, and How to Navigate Them.

There are a lot of issues associated with self-promotion. The top six often hamstring even the biggest and best advertising and design agencies:

The Project Isn't Taken Seriously
It is by far the biggest problem with self-promotion projects. Someone (or a committee) within the agency decides that it's time to do some self-promotion work. An account manager has a quick chat with someone from the senior team in the coffee room. They then drop in on a creative team and mention in passing that some self-promotion ideas would be good. And then everyone just hopes that it will all appear like magic, being exactly what everyone in the agency wants to see, and done with little fuss or effort. It is all wishful thinking. If the job isn't taken seriously, the work won't be seriously good. It won't even be mediocre. And eventually, it will have to be redone, perhaps several times. If the agency is serious about self-promotion work, treat it in the same way that you would treat a paying client's project.

The Job Always Takes The Back Seat
Another big problem with self-promotion work is that it is always going to be the job that's put on the back burner because paying jobs always take precedence. Now, that's all well and good, but the reason you get those paying jobs is often through work that's done on the backs of the agency's staff. It's fine to put it off when big jobs hit, like pitches, but if the job is scheduled and in the traffic system, give it the respect it deserves.

There's No Creative Brief
It cannot be stressed enough - every job needs a creative brief, there are no excuses for bypassing it. Often the cry is one of "but everyone knows who we are" or "it's self-promotion, we can do whatever we want." Well, no. There should always be a strategy, a goal, a set of guidelines, some firm direction, and a deadline. Without a brief, you are putting up a big, red flag that says "this project doesn't really matter" and you'll be right. You can't build anything without a foundation.

No Budget Has Been Assigned
It can be the cause of some major headaches. The creative will ask "what's the budget," and the account team will say "there isn't one, do what you like." Of course, that all comes crashing down when the ideas are presented, and a senior partner announces that the budget for the job is two nickels and a bag of rice. Attain a budget from the people who control the money. The ask for a little more, just in case. Now give your parameters to the creative team, and always be prepared to go back to the table with an option that will be over-budget but will make a huge splash.

There's No Media Plan
It is something that needs to be hammered out between everyone in the agency, including the creatives, the account team, the production department, traffic, and media buying. What is the purpose of the self-promotion? Is it going to be a guerrilla stunt, an online video, a print piece, posters, PR, or something else? No doubt the creative department will have ideas, but some basic parameters should be in place, and the respective departments should be ready to act.

There Are Too Many "Clients"
One of the biggest complaints of any agency is that there are too many opinions ruining the creative work. Ironically, this also happens within the agency as well. People are human, they all want to be heard, and they all believe their opinions are valid. For the sanity of everyone involved, and to save time, put one person in charge of the final decision, and leave it that way. It will more than likely be someone on the senior management team or the Creative Director. Letting the owner or partner chime in at the last second will create havoc.

How to Side-Step Self-Promotion Altogether

Aside from addressing all of those problems above, there is another way to do self-promotion, without actually setting aside any time to do a campaign. The answer lies in the work your agency does on a daily basis:

Do Great Work
Killer creative work is its own promotion campaign. If your agency is constantly putting out huge ideas that bring in customers and create buzz, you won't need to do any self-promotion work.

Win Recognized Industry Awards
Isn't this the same as doing great work? No, it's not. Scorsese and Spielberg did many great movies long before they ever won an Academy Award. Similarly, some Academy Award winners have had long careers based on one good movie they did 20 years ago. If you win awards, you have clout. Clout brings in clients.

Keep Your Clients Happy
Happy clients make a thriving agency. That doesn't mean your agency should do everything the client asks. No, it should provide the client with everything his or her business needs, and when the client is successful, everyone is. And that will lead to more billings.

Let Word Of Mouth Spread
Some businesses will not advertise in the usual places. Some won't even have a website (although these days, that's verging on suicidal). However, there is a certain cachet in being spread by the good word of clients and colleagues. Don't rely on it for too long though; an invisible agency is not exactly walking the walk.