Thursday, May 27, 2010

Notes from 5/21/2010 - with Dan Ratliff, Sr Recruiter

At last week's OCA meeting, we got two treats in one. Dan Ratliff, a senior recruiter from Allyis, visited the group and talked up the company he's recently joined AND was able to provide a wealth of recruiting knowledge after having been at staffing agency, VOLT, for 7 years.

Dan's new position at
Allyis has him working on staffing assignments for the consulting company, which does roughly 90% of their business with Microsoft. Out of Allyis' 200 employees, three quarters of them are V-dash consultants working on project-based roles for the software giant, with the other 50 employees working in-house.

From their web site: "Allyis offers solutions that help organizations excel in the next generation business environment where knowledge is king, agility wins, a new generation powers the workforce, and social technologies are part of normal business operations." The company has been
recognized by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the fastest growing private companies over the past six years and has been honored as one of the "100 Best Companies To Work For" by Washington CEO Magazine, earning 1st place in 2008. Needless to say, these were some of the reasons Dan took the new position.

So, with all the consulting talk, what's this have to do with OCA?? Glad you asked. Dan's goal with Allyis is to leverage his extensive experience in the creative staffing arena to build out the firm's capabilities in that particular area. And,
they have several marketing roles currently open.

Part two of our meeting had Dan answering a ton of questions from those in attendance about recruiting and HR tactics.
- The best way to work with a staffing agency or recruiter? "Transparency and open/honest communication." They want surprises as much as you do during the process.
- Dan's thoughts on where hiring is currently? Things are starting to pick up. However... hiring managers, unfortunately, still think they can drag out the recruiting process, waiting for the (unrealistically) perfect candidate, only to lose out to another company.
- Advice on how to break into some of the hotter job areas (social media, UX design, etc.)? "Networking." Take classes, get some experience, but more importantly, start talking to people in those areas.
- Resume tips? Spend much less time on a cover letter, and more time customizing your resume to the job you're seeking.
- His take on following up with recruiters: "Walk the fine line of being persistent, without being a stalker." Someone once waited at Dan's car to speak with him. It wasn't viewed as a positive thing.

Dan's contact info:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crowdsourcing - Where Art Meets Community

Creative forms of crowdsourcing have shown up in a multitude of venues recently. In just the past couple weeks, examples include everything from developing "the ULTIMATE compost-related product" through Quirky's current Compostalooza Competition -- to an experiment by WIRED Magazine to have its dot-com readers crowdsource a song using Indaba Music, "whose collaborative digital-audio-workstation platform, Mantis, allows musicians and amateurs all over the world to collaborate on the same piece of music for free."

The goal: Get a community together, centered around one purpose, and you can witness amazing results.

Such is the case with the crowdsourced video for Johnny Cash's final recording, "Ain't No Grave." In a recent 'Boards Magazine article, Kevin Ritchie talks with director Chris Milk about The Johnny Cash Project, where fans have contributed over 4,500 pieces of artwork to create a "living portrait of the Man in Black". Archival footage of the singer was collected by Milk and legendary producer, Rick Rubin, and then edited into a video, where contributors can illustrate over single frames. The result: a beautiful living piece, that can take new shape every time it's viewed.

Seattle-based and global crowdsourcing company, Zooppa, can admire such handiwork and knows all too well the creative power of a large crowd. Its own community of over 60,000-strong has produced TV, print, and online ads for such brands as Pillsbury, GoDaddy, Microsoft, and Nike, and the company is currently managing competitions for Universal Studios and the country of South Africa.

So, what exactly is "crowdsourcing?" By definition, it's ... well, it's new enough that doesn't have an explanation. But it has been around for several years, as the term was coined by author, Jeff Howe, in his 2006 WIRED magazine article,
The Rise of Crowdsourcing. According to Wikipedia, "Crowdsourcing is a neologistic compound of "crowd" and "outsourcing" for the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."

In the marketing world, it's asking a community of passionate consumers and/or aspiring artists to develop creative concepts to help advertise a company's brand or its product. For a group like Zooppa, they broker the creative development process between this community and the brand by providing "a platform for user-generated advertising" where "talented people from all over the world can meet, exchange ideas and share their creative work." Earlier this year, I wrote about two companies, Doritos and CareerBuilder, which each employed crowdsourcing to develop content for their Super Bowl ads.

Does this mean the beginning of the end of design and creativity as we know it? Not likely, but there is skepticism among professionals, who have studied and worked at a craft in which they are highly specialized, and turning over the reigns in part to the masses. What's the takeaway then for the marketing and advertising industry? Know what crowdsourcing is. And realize it could be an interesting, and inexpensive, way to generate new ideas when working with clients.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Notes from 5/14/2010 - with The Creative Group

Welcome to new OCA member, Laura Broyhill. Laura is a sales / marketing / product design professional and has more than 15 years of experience building unique brands and sales channels in the consumer market.
She also owns her own wholesale company which manufactures high-end, green garden accessories. Be sure to check out her site,

Last week's featured guest speaker was Terah Brossart, an Account Manager from The Creative Group. Terah and one of her colleagues, Maria Scheleen,
visited us last year, and we were very glad to have Terah back for a return engagement.

Terah introduced her TCG, which is part of Robert Half, the world's largest staffing company. Because they're connected to such a large entity, they can offer things like health care and free online training. On the flip side, however, TCG also provides personalized service, as their Seattle branch (one of 30 locations) has 4 people looking to staff creatives.

TCG has over 600 active companies that they work with to staff with contract help. This ranges from 2-person operations to companies such as REI to the likes of Microsoft (though Terah was quick to point out that only 11% of their business stems from the latter.)

As for current trends, Terah has seen more work materialize recently. "In the past 3 months, we're actually seeing multiple offers." Of course, a lot of these are in areas that are in demand, like motion graphics, UI, and information architecture. Another trend is that companies looking to hire are moving away from marketing generalists and are rather searching for people who have specialized skills, such as CRM, SEO, and Social Media.

Social Media has been one specific area of growth, in terms of employment. TCG has placed "marketing coordinator-level" employees, who can help, while companies look to sort out how to exactly play in this new space. Also hot in this area are research and analytics.

Terah also made a point to the group that, if we see a full-time position at a company they work with, she is more than happy to help, by looking to get in touch with a hiring manager to make a recommendation. It's all about relationships, and she sees this as an easy way to "pay it forward."

Contact Information:
Terah Brossart:
601 Union Street, Suite 4300
Seattle, WA 98101

Former OCA members, Wes Youngquist and Lane Bueche, were also on hand to introduce their new creative marketing agency, Motherlode. They've teamed up with Jim Zimmerman, also an OCA alum, and the three are doing well enough that they're looking to hire some freelance help in the digital space. Specifically, they're searching for an online producer and flash and web developers. The agency has, what they call, an "inside out approach" to marketing, as two of the three have been successful in executive positions on the client-side.
If you think you might fit the bill, feel free to get in touch with any of the three.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HR - From the Inside Out

This is a copy of a presentation Richard Law, the CEO of Allyis - a technology consulting, development and staffing firm, is presenting tomorrow (5/19) at the Portland Human Resource Management Association's Strategic HR Conference.

The tie-in with OCA?
1) We're always wondering how HR and recruiting works (and should work) within hiring companies. This company has a definitive point of view on how employees should be engaged in the workplace.
2) Dan Ratliff is our guest speaker at this Friday's OCA meeting. Recently with VOLT Staffing, Dan has just taken a recruiting position with Allyis.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Using Google Adwords as a job search tool

It's a fact of life, the number one thing people are curious about is themselves (and what other people think of them). Here's how one creative put that bit of human insight to work... in his search for work.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Notes from 5/7/2010 - "Managing Social Media"

Last week's meeting started off with a bang, literally, as we somehow got sidetracked into a lively discussion about gun control and the 2nd Amendment. (We might all be marketers, but some of us are clearly on opposite sides of the table when it comes to the subject.)

We quickly, however, got back to business and talked about more pertinent topics, such as how to effectively manage multiple forms of Social Media. One recommended application that several of us are employing is
HootSuite, which lets you manage multiple Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts in "one easy to use interface." The free software application lets you schedule tweets, track statistics, and personalize how you view what's going on in the social realm.

Friday's guest speaker will be Terah Brossart from The Creative Group, a national creative staffing agency. Terah will tackle all our questions about the Seattle market and will bring along some Salary Guides TCG has produced. Upon request, Terah will also discuss the rise of Social Media and how folks are landing jobs in this area.

Congrats to Meghan Ragsdale, who was elected Chair of Ad 2 Seattle, the AdClub's sub-group for those 32 years of age and under. They just had their 1st event last night, as they are looking to 'relaunch' the group back into prominence within the creative community.

Jen Pearce has recently started in a contract role as Media Author II with Xbox. She said the connection was made when she met reps from Creative Circle at our April 2nd meeting. Congrats, Jen!

And I've heard of two other offers, but I'm waiting (as are they) for final confirmation, before broadcasting to the world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Account Management - Just Like Coaching T-Ball

So, I'm coaching my sons' t-ball team the other day, and I'm getting the sense that something feels eerily familiar. Then it dawns on me... that coaching 4, 5, and 6-year-olds in a sport they haven't played before is very similar to Account Management at an advertising agency.

I've worked at three agencies in the Seattle area, and when explaining to others what Account Management is, I tend to end with, "It's a bit like herding cats." Which, if you've ever seen a t-ball game, you get the analogy. Add a mouse [the ball] to chase, and it's managing victory out of chaos.

First, in the new age of raising children, there are no losers - just games in which everyone gets to have fun by participating. In managing a client account, an agency is also looking for a win/win situation: a campaign that not only drives business for the client, but one in which the creative team can be proud to add to their portfolio.

Coaching t-ball is about keeping players focused and making sure everyone knows what's going on. "Hey Johnny, you paying attention?" "Great hit, Paul! Do you know which base you go to next? Right, 2nd." "Liam, if the ball comes toward you, field it (with your glove), and throw it to William at 1st."

As an account manager, it's not much different. Constant communication. You're the primary liaison between the client and all moving parts of the agency. (See below.) You're working with Media to help put together a media plan and get it approved by the client. You're briefing art directors and copy writers, so they can develop creative concepts that will communicate the company's product or service - to generate awareness, initiate trial, or to reiterate the client's brand. You're keeping track of schedules and working with Project Management and Production to ensure campaigns are being executed on time and under budget. All the while, putting on your 'client hat,' knowing what makes them (and their customers) tick (and not tick), and pushing to get the best creative that you can out of your team. And very often, it's a lot of: "Hey, Rob... you and Steve are going to be ready for the internal check-in meeting at 3 today, right?"

Sometimes, because of the sheer number of folks involved at each point, you're also orchestrating more people than are truly needed. At an agency, you can't have everyone who is working on a campaign there to present to the client (not that they'd all want to) - so some folks are left back at the office. With t-ball, however, I look around, and we've got 13 players on the field. The whole team. One playing each position in the infield, and seven in the outfield. Nothing's gonna get by us. Oh, wait, see my point about learning "the basics" a couple paragraphs down.

As a coach or a supervisor, it's about managing expectations. In t-ball, that means talking to the other coaches and determining that a kid is still going to be able to run the bases, despite the fact that he was out at 2nd by a mile. Or that a kid can take an extra base (and just one) if she hits the ball into the outfield. This isn't that hard in t-ball, but it's one of the most challenging notions of the role of Account Manager. Again, it comes down to communication - keeping the client apprised of all moving parts. What's the status? Where are we with things, and if anything is behind, what are we doing to mitigate risk?

Everybody has an opinion. Thankfully, at this age, parents of t-ball players don't get involved in coaching from the sidelines. [I don't expect that to continue as we get to a level where we count runs and some teams actually lose.] If they did, we'd gladly hand them a team shirt, and they could have at it. At an agency, however, Account Managers are constantly working with two often-differing opinions: those of the client and those of the creatives. It's a true skill to be able to balance these while achieving both goals for a campaign as mentioned above.

From a pure management sense, a large challenge in each area is that of teaching basic skills. In t-ball, that means instructing the kids on the basics of throwing and hitting (the ball). For some kids, this comes naturally. For others, it's a bit of a challenge at first. At an ad agency, it's also the duty of a seasoned Account Manager to instill a sense of client service with newly recruited Ad Execs. Anticipation, accountability, managing budgets and people, etc. - all those things which make the account team an integral part of the agency.

More often than not, however, you find yourself in a situation where you can't train the newbies as well as you'd like, and you're forced to put them in 'live' situations. Initial instruction and some general guidance, and this is where the real coaching begins. In both cases, if you're lucky, you collect a team of players who pick things up quickly, can adapt, and even lead by example.

Our #1 rule in t-ball: "Have fun." Working at an agency can be a lot of fun, too. At meetings, we don't usually put our hands in and, on 3, scream, "HAVE FUN!!!" at the top of our lungs - but the ping pong table, the occasional free lunch, and general lightheartedness at an agency make it an implied rule nonetheless.

Rule #2? "Don't swing the bat, unless an adult says It's OK." I'm glad that's something we've never had to instill at an agency.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Notes from 4/30/2010 - Interview Etiquette

Welcome to two new OCA members:
- Michael Heavener has more than 10 years of experience managing external and internal communications programs or projects, and has recently done so with Microsoft in several contract positions.
- Jennifer Wilson, Meeting and Event Specialist, was most recently with the The Red Lion Hotel at 5th Avenue. Prior to that position, Jennifer worked with Seattle's World Trade Center for 4 years.

At last week's OCA meeting, we talked about, what I'd refer to as "Interviewing Etiquette." Not from the job seeker's side, but rather from that of the hiring company. Specifically, those at Friday's meeting aired their thoughts and opinions on the difficulty, at times, of trying to find out exactly where you stand in the interview process - especially with a final decision. Call it the "Seattle passive/aggressive approach," but many interviewers simply won't tell a candidate, "No" - even if there truly isn't a fit or they've "decided to move on with other candidates." And rather than being up front, companies sometimes simply don't get back to the job seeker at all. Are they waiting it out, hoping the candidate decides to move on as well?

As a friend of mine once said, Sometimes a 'No' is just as good as a 'Yes.' If you know exactly where you stand, you can close the loop and focus your efforts elsewhere. You can also sometimes gather valuable feedback that could help you down the road in your job search. One of the most difficult things to decipher is why you may have been passed up for a position, but if you can get someone to divulge that crucial piece of information, you're that much better off for knowing.

Some of the best conversations I've had have been with hiring managers or recruiters who have specifically called to let me know I didn't get the job. Rather than a form letter, it's personal, and while rejection isn't fun, you leave the process feeling good about the company and it's representatives. It also opens the door to be able to connect with them for future openings.

All that being said, we completely realize recruiters and HR departments are slammed right now. During a recession, when employment is down, those areas are one of the first to go. And as hiring starts to pick back up as it has, recruiters (or, in many cases currently, contract recruiters) are often doing double-duty and wading through hundreds of applications for every job opening they're responsible to fill.

Still, in a world where relationships are proving to be the best thing a company can develop, wouldn't you want to have everyone who has interacted with your company feel good about their overall experience?