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The 7 New Roles Agencies Must Play to Survive Real-Time Business

Change is all around us, in many shapes and guises. Yet the nucleus of most of the shifts that have us feeling like we’re in a transformational maelstrom is speed. Everything happens faster now. Awareness can be captured more quickly than ever before. Sales can be closed instantly online. Customer service issues can be resolved in 140 characters on Twitter. And the social Web can spread a crisis with breathtaking swiftness.

Marketing and communication has moved from a series of lakes (campaign>>analyze>>modify>>repeat), to a waterfall where you’re doing the communicating and the analyzing and the modifying all at once, every day.

As marketers, we weren’t trained for this.

Especially on the client side, where personnel is spread thin and responsibilities are increasingly numerous, keeping the company at the crest of the real-time revolution is a very difficult proposition. And that’s where agencies should help.

That was the premise of my presentation to the BOLO 2010 conference in Scottsdale this week, where 150+ agency principles convened to drill deep into the speedy digital future of professional marketing services.

To succeed as an agency in a world where contemplation is a quaint anachronism, you must shape-shift. You must redefine what it means to be an agency, and provide the services and strategic guidance that clients cannot provide themselves. That means not trying to build a social services department that solely sets up Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for businesses. There’s no secret sauce there. There’s not even a secret. Or sauce.

There are 7 new roles agencies must play to survive real-time business:

1. Cartographer

Help companies map and integrate the social Web within their organizations. Assist with the creation of social media guidance councils. Help with the adoption, propagation and training of social media guidelines and policies.

2. Scout

Help companies look for ways to succeed in The Opportunity Economy. Find ways to insert clients authentically and contextually in social dialogues.

3. Interpreter

Take clients’ message and deconstruct them like a fancy caesar salad. Atomize content (thanks Todd Defren) by taking a big idea and turning it into many small content executions, spread around the social Web like a digital dandelion.

4. Politician

Help clients understand the relationship that prospective clients have with them today, and how to move people from interest to advocacy. Help clients humanize their brands and in so doing drive kinship and purchase intent. Show clients how to activate their fans, not just collect them like baseball cards.

5. Firefighter

If the clients of your agency don’t have a social media crisis plan, and a crisis occurs, who do you think is going to be blamed for that? Not ensuring that clients understand how to gauge and effectively respond to a real-time viral incident is irresponsible – and a missed revenue opportunity.

6. Accountant

Whomever keeps score controls the budget eventually. Showing clients the myriad ways social media and real-time business can be effectively measured is a hallmark of smart agencies.

7. Trainer

In some cases, clients will want to manage and execute social and real-time programs in-house. It’s hard to argue, as it’s often difficult to outsource the humanization of a company. Agencies need to find a way to both educate and train their clients, while staying involved strategically and in a supervisory or advisory capacity.

Changing the services your agency provides shouldn’t be viewed as a threat, but rather as an opportunity. Which of the 7 new roles are most viable for you, or your clients?

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  1. says

    It was awesome to be among the first to see these ideas rolled out live at BOLO, Jay. My key takeaway is that agencies and consultants shouldn’t approach social media as a set of tactics, but as an ongoing strategic relationship with our clients. I suspect most agencies already seek that level of engagement, but having these “job definitions” will be a big help in describing the relationship — and its benefits — to our clients. Can’t wait for the book!

  2. says

    Oh, Jay, could it be? Someone talking about agencies in the world of Social Media? I knew I adored you!

    Being an agency means the 7 things you describe and more. It means being open-handed with information that could down the road cost you work. It means being in a world where a lot of companies are working direct and think that agencies themselves are archaic. It means perpetually fighting to show that agency is not equivalent to “Print advertising.” Not that we frown upon print at our agency but we do so much more.

    I can’t wait to dig into your presentation.

    Thanks for doing this!

  3. says

    These are some great roles that people must play in your business. The best part would be to find people who can play multiple roles to help with your overhead.

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