Image of Thomas the Tank Engine

Quite the wrong sort of training for a digital media agency

Which of the following questions do you think you would least likely ask a digital agency at a pitch meeting for a project to redevelop your website?

1. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee? Water, perhaps?
2. How do you plan to ensure that the website you design and build for us will reflect our brand values?
3. How much of your company’s staff training and development budget did you leave unspent last year?

I assume that you are a nice, friendly lot, so I take it for granted that you would ask the first question as a matter of courtesy.

I assume you would also ask the second question, as the optimal expression of your brand values would presumably be a major criterion in determining your choice of digital agency.

But, I think, you would be unlikely to ask the question about staff training and development.

Which would be a shame, as it is just the sort of question I’d suggest you should ask, or get someone to ask on your behalf, somewhere in the selection process? But, why?

In spending years sat on both sides of the agency selection process, working at different times as a client and for an agency, my experience has shown me that traditional agency selection processes tend to be far too narrow, focusing just on the agencies’ responses to the Request for Proposal, with just a little due diligence in the areas of financial stability and chasing references added for safety’s sake. Yet, experience has shown me that you have to dig a lot deeper than the usual questions to get a true, rounded picture of how a digital agency works.

If you are responsible for the online offerings of your organisation (or its Intranet, or online advertising) the performance of the digital agency you choose to execute those responsibilities will have an enormous impact on your career. You need to know that the agency you choose really is the best for you and the organisation you work for. Furthermore, you will need to form a lasting, mutually successful relationship with your digital agency, as engagements like these tend to last a number of years, rather than months.

So, you will want to choose a digital agency that does better than just answer your brief. You’ll want to choose an agency that sets high standards. And, I suggest, an agency’s attitude to staff development reveals a lot about the standards it aspires to.

Why is staff development so important to a digital media agency? Here are three reasons:

  1. Digital media is a technology-driven industry. And, that technology is always changing. Do you want to engage a digital agency whose staff are aware and capable in the latest online and digital technologies; or one whose staff have skills which are growing older and less relevant by the day?
  2. Few industries allow so many opportunities for innovation as digital media, and I’d be surprised if you were not at least hopeful that your chosen digital agency was able to bring some innovation to the table. Yet, innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. Instead, it is sparked-off by intelligent, creative people having their imaginations ignited by the innovations of others. The staff at your chosen digital agency will need time and encouragement to attend conferences, road-shows, seminars, and other events. They will need to see and experience the best work of their peers if they are to produce their best work for you.
  3. When you choose a digital agency, you will do so, at least in part, because of its people. You’ll want those people to stay around for the lifetime of your project. Yet, the world of digital media has notoriously high rates of staff turnover. Studies and surveys on staff retention invariably indicate that the availability of training and development opportunities plays an important role in persuading existing staff to stay with their employer.

So, you get the idea – staff training and development isn’t just a nice-to-have: it’s a vital component of the ability of your chosen digital agency to do a really great job for you.

Which is why I’d ask that question about the staff development budget; and, why I’d be so interested to hear the agencies’ answers.

Photo used under Creative Commons from g-hat.

Email this post to a friend Email this post to a friend

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Business analysts, don’t be stooges – ask to be sat by the CEO

28 December 2009
The Three Stooges make a mess of accurately capturing a requirement

No one wants to be seen as someone else’s stooge, not even a business analyst, which I consider myself to be (among other things). But this, I feel, is often the way BAs are seen by others. The reason for this is often where the BAs are situated within their organisation. In fact, the question [...]

Read the full article →

Nearest Tube iPhone app sees augmented reality becoming really useful

19 August 2009
iPhone 3GS displaying the Nearest Tube app

While I’m still feeling some pangs of guilt about my recent desertion from the Windows Mobile platform and my conversion to the iPhone 3GS, those pangs are becoming less frequent and less painful the more I use my iPhone (it’s magnificent) and I become more and more convinced that the platform currently offers by far [...]

Read the full article →

You are so right, Matt – develop first, design later

13 August 2009
Image of my first threaded discussion in a tiny thread website

Twitter has many attributes, not least the fact that it has a very limited, but very compelling, feature set (yes, limited is a plus when it comes to functionality), but regular users, especially those who use the service to hold conversations, have missed the ability to hold those conversational tweets together in a thread. So, [...]

Read the full article →

If the photo fits, who cares if it’s culturally relevant?

02 August 2009
HSBC's advert for UK mortgages showing a US-style house

How significant is cultural relevance to a successful advert? Well, not at all, it would seem, if we are to assume that HSBC’s advertising agency hasn’t made an enormous gaff. If cultural relevance is important, then HSBC may feel that its advertising agency has handed it a bit of a pig-in-a-poke with the bank’s latest [...]

Read the full article →

Shame your IT to get rid of Internet Explorer 6

23 July 2009

I know that some of of you are still plagued by Internet Explorer 6, usually because of the demands of your IT department. You should look at this site, HEY-IT, which will help you launch your campaign to get rid of it now.

Read the full article →

Why do you use Google? Because it looks pretty, because of its brand, or because it works?

08 July 2009
Image of someone using Google Maps

Why do you use Google? Don’t bother to answer, as I’ll take a wild guess. It’s because you want to find something. Am I right? It wasn’t the most difficult job I’ve ever had. It’s a blindingly obvious reason that almost doesn’t need stating (I’m sure that won’t stop some university department applying for a [...]

Read the full article →