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The Nerf Gun Behind the Curtain

There are nerf darts scattered around my desk.

On my first day working at an agency, darts were just the beginning of what I’d be learning in a field I’ve specialized in for more than a decade, but never on the agency side.

Agencies were nebulous to me. I’ve worked with a handful of them over my years in content writing, public relations and digital strategy. Some have enormous teams with groups of specialties, and others have small teams where everyone seems to pinch-hit and pick up where other colleagues left off – both have merit.

Plus, agencies always have the best business cards. They tell exceptional stories, because they knead the boundaries of creativity. They mesh together ideas and strategy and execution in harmony. But how does all that come together behind the scenes?

My career has unfurled from nonprofit communications to journalism to web content writing to corporate PR. Each step has taught me invaluable lessons, but the agency inner workings remained a mystery. How are projects woven? What’s it like being on a team whose sole goal is to produce the best marketing or communications product? How do the elements and domains of expertise synchronize? Do they have fewer meetings than corporate America seems to?

While not every agency offers the same services, delivery style and culture, I’ve gotten the chance to experience what GRIT embodies by being part of what goes on behind the curtain here.

The Answer to Everything

As a newbie at the company and at an agency, I have endless questions. I have ceaseless questions anyway, as a trained reporter. And what I’ve loved here? I get answers quickly and no one is too busy to help or exasperated if I’m not picking it up fast enough. Even better: when I’m bringing ideas to the table, they’re heard. Others throw out ideas or thoughts and we land on a great strategy.

The Time Tracking

When I asked professional connections who’ve worked at agencies what I should be prepared for, the number one response was: time tracking. Unlike in many corporate or nonprofit roles, my expertise here isn’t viewed as administrative, i.e., non-billable. Instead, the value I bring in media relations, PR strategy, event planning and so much more is part of the foundational worth our team provides to clients. So, when I’m researching a newsworthy topic, connecting with reporters, coming up with a new idea for social media content or drafting a speaker bio to present, I record that time for each client I’m guiding.

The Daily Check In

Every day at 8:37 a.m. sharp, my team gathers in the middle of the office. Some stand, some sit, some carry enormous day planners, others have just a slim cell phone and a travel mug, and we check in. We share news – personal or otherwise. It’s a low-key way to connect and hear about a home renovation project, a personal best time at a track meet, or empathize with a challenging situation. Then we go around the circle and review our responsibilities at work for the day, asking questions to make sure we’re on the same page and shuffling priorities as needed. In less than half an hour, we all know what to get started on, what meetings we’ll be juggling and who we need to follow up with. We head back to our computers and phones to start connecting with clients and type away on our keyboards. Being equipped with this knowledge at the start of each day helps us streamline communications and operations, and it’s really helping me learn the team’s functionality and business.

The Leadership Trust

It’s guaranteed to happen: life’s responsibilities do not stop when I’m on the clock at work. Adulting often means juggling more than you ever thought possible. That phone is going to ring with a mini-crisis. Something in your house is going to break. Some business you must visit in person is only open only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Many organizations have a “the job must come first” unspoken (or spoken!) rule. Flexibility to manage your responsibilities might not be granted until you’ve proven yourself for years, if at all.

At GRIT, the opposite is true. Leadership starts with a level of trust in their employees. If the water heater is busted and you must be there for the plumber, they trust that you’ll be there, but also stay on top of client needs and make sure your work responsibilities are fulfilled. It’s rejuvenating to have that basis as you’re starting work each day.

The Stepping Up

As part of the morning check-in meeting, it’s a time to raise your hand and say – I need help. Whether a client crisis came up, strategy discussion timeline moved forward, or edits are coming back, you can always raise your hand and ask for support. The account team is happy to step in, other team members will take a moment to answer questions, review or manage some communication to keep a project moving forward. It’s refreshing to hear “how can we help?” and know that people have your back when things blow up unexpectedly.

The Downtown Community

In mid-2018, GRIT moved into newly refurbished office space off Market Street in downtown York, PA. The renovations updated a historic building with a “gritty,” industrial vibe. In my first weeks here, I’ve been walking around when the weather is nice (and sometimes when its not because I need some soup as the rain sloshes down). There are local coffee shops, cafes and plentiful businesses downtown, along with public art and easy-to-navigate streetscapes. I love that I can walk out the front (or back) door and enjoy the downtown culture.

The Nerf Guns

We’re circling back to the nerf guns. The nerf guns represent part of GRIT’s culture: fun! The team has monthly potlucks, each of them themed – last month was to bring a Cinco de Mayo themed dish. There really are nerf gun battles. And possibly a whoopie cushion or two. The Slack feed is full of hilarious gifs. The weekly meeting discussion included what CD you would put on repeat if you were driving across the U.S. The white board in the kitchen has a quote or a question on it. It’s natural to joke and chat with a closely-knit team, and that’s encouraged here.

Lifting the Curtain

I’m sure I’ll learn even more about the culture and the operations of GRIT as an agency in the coming months, but I’ve been invigorated at what I’ve found so far. A willingness to support and guide that runs deep with everyone on the team. Brainstorming and sharing ideas to make sure the client is getting the best deliverable. Tracking time, checking in and trusting each other. And darts flying through the air when you least expect it.

GRIT Marketing Group knows how to work hard, support each other and have fun. If that sounds like the kind of agency you want to work with for any web, advertising, pubic relations or graphic design needs, contact us online, at [email protected] or by calling (717) 884-0014.