4 Ways Your Marketing Agency Can Foster Great Ideas

We tend to associate creativity with the poets, musicians and artists of the world. We think of it as something innate (e.g., a painter is creative, an accountant is not). The fact is, though, that everyone has the capacity for creativity. Being creative is not an inborn talent, or something that only comes in flashes of inspiration, but can be developed and harnessed.

This is an especially important concept for marketing and public relations agencies, which need to churn out a constant stream of creative ideas for their clients and to stay competitive. Drew McLellan, CEO of Agency Management Institute, illustrated this in a recent article for Forbes, “It Takes An Agency To Raise A Creative Idea.” He says the art department isn’t the only place where ideas should come from. All agency staff should be encouraged to share their thoughts freely —in fact, ideas from people in “noncreative” roles might even be better, since these professionals have a fresh perspective.

In the article, McLellan suggests four ways agencies can encourage creativity. Here are his tips:

  1. Encourage learning.

McLellan says that creativity flourishes when old and new knowledge are combined. Rather than diving into something completely foreign, use current expertise as a pathway to something new. He gives the example of an antique collector learning to reupholster vintage furniture. It’s a new skill, but it’s not entirely removed from the collector’s interests and existing knowledge base — and that intersection is where creativity happens.

  1. Take risks (even small ones).

They say magic happens outside of your comfort zone, but risks don’t need to be huge, life-changing leaps of faith. A risk might just be trying a new experience or doing an everyday activity a little differently. McLellan says this will help with neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to make new connections and change over time. Those new connections are the basis for creativity.

  1. Always include one risky option.

One of our favorite tips that McLellan offers is to provide clients one “safe” option and one out-of-the-box option. In most cases, clients will choose the safe option. But thinking of those weird, experimental or downright crazy solutions (and not immediately shutting them down during brainstorming sessions) will keep creativity flowing. Plus, if a client does want to go the risky route, it presents a new and exciting challenge.

In part, clients are paying agencies to be creative. When we present some of our risky ideas, we are pushing our clients outside their comfort zone, and I think that’s one of the best ways to push their marketing into new realms.

  1. Get out of the office.

Sometimes, a change of scenery is all you need to come up with your next great idea. Rarely does inspiration strike while you’re sitting at your desk, turning the same problem over and over again in your head. Our brains need downtime to process, and agency field trips are the perfect way to relax and let the creative juices flow. Trips to the zoo, hiking trails and the movies are a few of the outings McLellan suggests.

At Berbay, this was in part why we created our firm’s cultural camaraderie/well-being program in 2016. We wanted to get people out of the office, not only for a better work-life balance and to have some fun, but also to inspire creativity and stimulate innovative thinking through different experiences. Through this program, we’ve toured historic homes, visited museums and even went to Disneyland. We found ourselves brainstorming ideas while standing in line or admiring Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad in Los Angeles. Getting out of your “element” oftentimes sparks the best and brightest ideas.

Queen Bee Syndrome – Why Women Should Be Concerned About Their Unequal Treatment of Others Too

While more and more companies in recent years say they are committed to gender equality, the proof is in the pudding and, unfortunately, women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America. According to the “2017 Law360 Glass Ceiling Report,” the share of women with equity partnerships — where the highest compensation and leadership positions are lodged — remains at 20 percent and has not changed in recent years.

While women espouse gender equality, sometimes those at the top are just as guilty as men in holding women back. Women discriminating against other women is referred to as “queen bee syndrome” and comes from work done by University of Michigan researchers in the 1970s. According to those researchers, women working in male-dominated environments held back other women in an effort to keep their elevated status.

Let’s be clear, not all women in the highest ranks are queen bees. Many in leadership positions are great mentors, teachers and advocates for women. But, interestingly, for those who do have difficulty competing with other women, academics argue that queen bee behavior is really a byproduct of discrimination committed by men.  It’s a byproduct of sexism. Many women come up through the ranks being taught that they need to think and act like men to succeed. They cope with sexism and bias by distancing themselves from other women and try to show that they’re not like other women.

Needless to say, queen bee syndrome is controversial as it tries to establish a cause and effect scenario. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, said a few years ago, “Women aren’t any meaner to women than men are to one another. Women are just expected to be nicer.”

Fortunately, current research suggests that in recent years, queen bee syndrome has declined.  Does that mean we’re any closer to equality in the workplace?  Let me put it this way:  a new World Economic Forum report puts a 217-year time estimate on how long it will take to reach gender equality in the workplace.  Looks like we have a great deal more to do!

Just Breathe; No Really, You Are Forgetting to Breathe: How Training Your Mind Can Help You Perform

Elite athletes are known for their grit, resiliency and grace under pressure. At this year’s Women Leaders Forum, Christie Southern, Principal, Head Coach Mental Performance Consultants, led a workshop entitled, “Developing the Mind of a Corporate Champion.” The workshop provided an overview of the approach and strategies employed by elite professional and Olympic athletes to develop mental toughness.  It also highlighted the cutting-edge neuroscientific studies behind this approach, demonstrating how these techniques can benefit women attorneys in leadership roles to help them hit the field “game ready.”

Christie pointed out that the challenges of being a lawyer are the same as for athletes. Both “jobs” are demanding, they require resiliency, emotional composure, the ability to deal with rejection and failure, are highly competitive and there’s a great deal of pressure.

According to Christie, 90% of an athlete’s or lawyer’s success rests solely on his or her mental ability and capacity. As such, you must train your brain like you train your body (the scientific term is neuroplasticity – the ability to change your brain). When it comes to mental capacity, concentration, managing emotion, managing anxiety and nerves – resilience and attitude are key. While confidence can’t be practiced, when you practice your skills and train your mind, your confidence will build.

Interestingly, Christie said that women are very self-assured and are likely to over-estimate their abilities. Women tend to “play the men’s game,” but what they should be doing is capitalizing on their own strengths – empathy, intuition, compassion and adaptability; she said they have less of an ego and are more collaborative.

Christie gave us the force of the “eight breaths” exercise where you inhale for four seconds, hold it while you count to seven, and then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.  She said that this is highly-effective in calming the mind and that the actual rhythm of doing this over and over again can reset the nervous system to be calmer and more composed.

This re-centering should make it easier for lawyers to deal with the internal and external distractions they face every day. However, internal distractions are harder to ignore, and women tend to dwell on setbacks. Christie recommends that you stop replaying mistakes, tell yourself to move on and then let it go. A technique used by tennis player Maria Sharapova to monitor her thoughts is: recognize, reframe and reboot. After a bad serve or a mistake on the court, Maria walks away, turns her back to the tennis court, takes three steps, turns around and that’s when she’s rebooted her mind.  She’s reframed her thoughts and tells herself, “That play is over. I’m focusing on the next one.”

Self-talk is particularly important and effective for women. Visualizing, as well as mentally rehearsing what you’re facing and how to overcome it, helps minimize your negative inner voice. Find a ritual for yourself that helps you close the file and move on.

In terms of attitude and resilience, Christie believes we need to learn how to fail, cope with change and focus on the process, not the outcome.  Failure allows us to examine what went wrong and change our mindset to think of failure as a challenge versus a threat. The mind works very differently when it thinks it’s being threatened.

The mind is a complex instrument and if it’s used correctly, it can be a helpful tool, but if used incorrectly, it can be very destructive. As lawyers suffer from anxiety and depression four times more than do those in other professions, using the techniques discussed in Christie’s session can help gain the mental toughness to succeed in leadership roles.

Biggest Issue in Communication? The Belief It Has Taken Place; Uncork Your Better Boss

At the 2018 Women Leaders Forum, Shani Magosky, Owner/Founder, Vitesse Consulting, LLC/The Better Boss Project, shared her tips for “Uncorking Your Better Boss.” The focus of her presentation was how communicating ongoing and on-target feedback is important in all business relationships, whether they’re with employees, fellow attorneys, your boss, your firm’s marketing team, or even a client.

Shani used playful wine analogies to teach a simple, professional and repeatable model for giving effective feedback to others. She suggests that we learn to give feedback with:

  • A smooth, well-balanced open structure
  • Notes of active listening, transparency and timeliness
  • A satisfying finish that serves to elevate performance and engagement

One of the big questions addressed in this session was: Should you ask for feedback?  Shani believes that seeking feedback is always a best practice. Interestingly, she noted women almost always ask for it, men don’t.

When discussing the issue of giving feedback, Shani shared the acronym PINOT (like the wine), which stands for:

  • P = Permission to give feedback; Ask if now is a good time
  • I = Interactive listening and asking powerful questions
  • N = No b.s.; Be authentic
  • O = Often, timely and continuous feedback
  • T = Say thanks when you get feedback

She also discussed the SIP model:

  • S = Situation: Describe the behavior you observed and provide examples
  • I = Impact: Describe the impact of what was communicated to the team/firm/client
  • P = Possibility: Ask questions and offer ideas to help communication skills grow/develop

Definitely food for thought…accompanied by a glass of wine, of course!

Implicit Bias and Its Effect on Women Rising through Legal Ranks – Insights from Women Leaders Forum

In March, I attended the Women Leaders Forum in Denver, an event assembled by Kim Stuart of Key Group and David Ackert of Ackert Advisory to support the advancement of women leaders in the legal industry. Keynote speaker Hilarie Bass, President of the American Bar Association (ABA) and Co-President of Greenburg Traurig LLP, kicked off the event with a candid talk about the issues women face in the workplace. I’ve recapped her discussion below.

As of 2018, there are more women in law school than men; however, ABA research found that by age 50, 25% of women will have permanently left the profession, whether because of family or because they think the profession is not accommodating to women.

Here are some of the reasons women feel the legal industry has been challenging:

  • Managing two jobs: No matter how much the world has evolved in recent decades, women still feel they have two jobs: taking care of the household and their fulltime job as a lawyer. This tends to wear out women much faster.
  • Success fatigue: Women have felt that they have to “do it better” than their male counterparts to get the recognition they warrant, for example, graduating at the top of their law school and being the top biller at their firm. As Ginger Rogers famously said, she had to do everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels!
  • Empathy index: Many women feel that they are judged differently for the same tasks that men do. For example, if a man tells the office that he’s leaving early to take his child to soccer, everybody thinks he’s an awesome father and a family man; but if a woman does the exact same thing, she’s made to feel that she’s not dedicated to her work.
  • Inherit implicit bias: No matter how objective men feel they are, they are not. And this issue is not one-sided. People tend to judge people subjectively – it is a fact of life.

One fascinating theme that the ABA discovered was the subtle difference in men and women’s letters of recommendations. For example, men were described as naturally brilliant, whereas women were described as hardworking and dedicated.

Another example of implicit bias discussed was a class action lawsuit filed against an orchestra claiming that women weren’t being hired. This was evidenced by the fact that less than 5% of women who auditioned were accepted. In a test designed to eliminate the perceived bias, screens were put up so that the people auditioning couldn’t be seen. From these auditions, the number of women accepted to the orchestra doubled. The test designers noticed, however, that there was still the opportunity for bias because the evaluators could hear the clicking of heels on the floor, so they then carpeted the auditions. After that test, more than 30% of the orchestra was made up of women. This demonstrates that no matter how much you think you’re being objective, you really may not be.

Business Development and Marketing Plans for Lawyers

With a New Year bearing down upon us, there’s no time like the present for attorneys and law firms to get to work on creating annual business development plans and/or their marketing plans. Some firms have both a business development and a marketing plan, and other firms have neither; however, having a written plan rather than just an idea or a discussion of what you hope to accomplish as an attorney or a law firm will allow you to gauge your progress, as the year marches on.

Benefits of Having Marketing and Business Development Plans in Writing

Business development and marketing activities are vital to the success of almost every law firm. However, many legal practices will simply continue to do what they’ve always done without much organization or thought. For firms that want to take a more strategic approach to their marketing and business development efforts, written plans are the first step to improving. Here are a few benefits of taking this strategic step:

Prevents Haphazard Marketing

Too many law firms and attorneys try to fill slower times with a slew of marketing and business development activities.  However, these kinds of things should not be done on the fly.  In doing so, you run the risk of making investments that won’t provide an ROI and you will almost certainly end up being inconsistent or overlooking important opportunities.

Aids in Time Management

There are only so many hours in the day, week and year.  A well-crafted plan can get you to focus on the items that are the best use of your time, as opposed to those that are less useful.  For example, if you commit to attending 5 networking events each year, you can identify those that are “can’t miss” events ahead of time, so that you’re not feeling pressured, or pressed for time to attend every event you’re invited to.

Keeps You Accountable

When your plan is spelled out in black and white, it will provide an objective look at how well you’re accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.  It also allows you to measure your efforts as you move through the year, essentially showing you any areas where you’re particularly successful or those where you’re falling short of what you set out to accomplish.

Formulating and writing out your business development and marketing plans are important for every attorney and law firm. However, the plan is only worthwhile if you refer to it regularly.  Keep it accessible and review your progress as time passes.  Abide by your own deadlines, and keep accountable for what you have promised yourself you will do to grow your practice.  After all, the best plans in the world will be rendered useless if you don’t regularly refer to it, and confirm you’re on track.

There Are No Guarantees in Life — or in Marketing

Life is unpredictable. That’s why our parents likely warned us that there are no guarantees in life. None of us truly know what will happen next; however on several occasions, prospective clients have asked me for guarantees, which is what prompted this blog. These prospects want a guarantee on how many new clients I can bring them, or how many times they will see their name in the media after hiring us. The fact is, just like life, there are no guarantees in marketing either. Trust me, I wish I could give them a number, or tell them what the future holds, but at the end of the day, all I can bring to the table is my experience, expertise and confidence that we will achieve success.

If they still aren’t quite getting it, I put it in their terms. Take a lawyer as an example. When someone hires you as their lawyer, do you guarantee that you’ll win? No. You can feel very confident in the case, but promising a win is unethical, and if you lose, you’re going to have a very upset client on your hands. All you can do is put your experience to bear and do the best job you can. The same goes for PR and marketing.

Marketing is always going to be a little risky because it’s reliant on people’s behavior, which is notoriously difficult to predict. What works for another law firm isn’t necessarily going to work for you, and what works for you today won’t necessarily work for you a year from now. We’ll never be able to guarantee results because finding what works requires experimentation, and, quite simply, some experiments don’t have the outcomes you want.

That said, there are a few things you can control when it comes to your marketing plan:

  • Your expectations. It’s good to have high standards, but you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that reporters are going to start calling you nonstop or you’re going to be on the cover of every magazine. Set realistic, timely goals and ask your PR firm for examples of what they’ve achieved with other clients so you can manage your expectations.
  • Your budget. Money doesn’t solve every problem — but it helps. If you’re able to add to your marketing budget, it can open up more possibilities, and give you an edge over the competition. If you’re not getting the results you want, you might need to invest a little more in your marketing plan.
  • Your firm. Again, nothing is certain, but you’re setting yourself up for success if you hire a firm with a long and proven track record. At the very least, you know they have a good relationship with reporters and some tried-and-true techniques under their belt. Hiring an established firm is the closest you can get to a guarantee.

3 Signs of a Prairie Dog Marketer

Prairie dogs are cute little animals who are often found happily digging away underground. Their signature move is suddenly popping up out of their burrows when they sense danger or to scan for predators. It’s a great strategy for prairie dogs. Not so much for marketers.

In my line of work, I often come across “prairie dog marketers” — people who pop up to market only when a new competitor enters the space or does something interesting. Once they’ve done enough, they go back into their burrow to focus on “real” work and leave the marketing for another day.

This strategy may work for a little while, but it will never lead to long-term success. Marketing can’t only be done when you feel like it, when there’s a new trend, or when you’re falling behind. One example that seems to make sense to people is the idea of losing weight. Everyone knows that exercising and eating right is the best strategy, but if you only do it for a month or two, you won’t get very far. The same goes for marketing: consistency is key.

Don’t fall into the prairie dog marketing trap. Be on the lookout for these warning signs that you need more consistency in your marketing plan:

Nothing seems to be working.
If every strategy you try seems to fail, it might not be the strategies themselves — they could just need more time to work. If you’re constantly dabbling in new things and quitting a few months in, you’ll never know what would have been a success. You won’t have enough data to measure, and you won’t be able to compare over time. Even if a strategy really wasn’t working, maybe all it needed was a small tweak rather than a complete abandonment. Sticking with strategies for awhile helps you know for sure whether they’re successful.

You don’t have many engaged followers.
Engagement goes hand in hand with consistency. Your followers will notice if your social media strategy is constantly changing, or if you’re only active on social media in short bursts. People like to follow and interact with accounts that share informative content in an interesting way, and if you’re not doing that regularly, your follower count and engagement will probably stay stagnant. Consistently posting on social media, even if you’re not posting the most groundbreaking content, can help with engagement.

Your leads are falling off.
One place where a lack of consistency will quickly become apparent is lead generation. If you stop marketing leads will stop coming. This should be a big red flag because without leads, you don’t have a business. Frantically marketing only when you need new business isn’t going to cut it, so it’s critical that it’s part of your day-to-day plan. If you’re recommitting to marketing consistency, this is the place to start.

The Future of the Workplace: Collaboration, Working Remotely and More

Nearly a decade ago, workplace collaboration was all the rage. CEOs and senior staff were knocking down walls to create open offices, forgoing the traditional corner office and getting employees from different departments to work together in the same space. It even seems hard to imagine that this trend started a decade ago. So what are CEOs and senior staff asking for now? Privacy – and they want their offices back.

When surrounded by other people chatting, typing and talking on the phone, many employees have found that they have to sneak off into conference rooms or wear headphones just to get their work done. It seems like the pendulum has started to swing away from the big, open office.

Another pendulum swing is that the gig economy means people are working remotely more than ever before. Working remotely is a great perk for employees, but I’ve noticed many companies struggle with the virtual workforce, prompting me to think maybe all these fads will fade away.

So how can we expect the workplace to change over the next year, or even the next 10 years? Below are some thoughts.

Rebuilding some of the walls they knocked down
As noted in a Wall Street Journal article, many people in leadership roles are opting to take the corner office rather than sit with the whole staff all the time. Today, however, a private office is less about status and more about having a space to think. One downfall of the open office is that everyone can tell when the boss is stressed or feeling down, and they have nowhere to go to deal with it. Managers have found that having a personal space to regroup helps them be better leaders and keep company morale high.

Companies will continue to encourage working remotely, but not go crazy
The Wall Street Journal’s article stated that the percentage of employees working entirely remotely is at an all-time high of 20%, up from 15% last year. Although some companies have found that allowing employees to work remotely reduces costs, its real value is in increasing employee autonomy and satisfaction. Shifting to remote work takes strategy and investment, but the reality is that more workers are going to expect (and need) to work from anywhere in the future.

That being said, a distributed workforce can oftentimes hinder collaboration. I believe that when you are working in an office, collaboration will occur naturally. Regardless of the tools we have to communicate no matter where you are in the world, a digital workforce can have a negative impact on morale and culture. We are thankful for tools like Slack, where working remotely isn’t in opposition to collaboration. In fact, it can create radical transparency: there is no such thing as a closed meeting when there are no doors.

Shared spaces won’t be limited to the people at your company
Co-working spaces are popping up all over the country to support freelancers and remote workers from all sorts of industries. These shared offices can provide the best of both worlds: a quiet space to work and an opportunity to socialize and problem-solve with other people (without the possibility of them assigning a new project in the lunchroom). Although open offices may be on the decline, collaboration is not—in fact, co-working spaces may increase cross-sector collaboration.

Berbay Marketing & PR