The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. —
I wish I could claim innovation, genius and exquisite vision for our firm’s leadership in agency virtualization. But I’m more of a chump than a champ. The reason we started leading in virtualization was much more practical.
During my third year of business I started getting pounded with tons of great work. But I was starting to drop the ball in administrative areas — bookkeeping, accounts payable/receivable, systems, travel arrangements, answering the phone, etc.
The days, and especially nights, when I could complete creative work were not long enough. I needed an assistant – but I couldn’t afford one.
Then I stumbled on an article in Esquire, “My Outsourced Life,” by A.J. Jacobs, Sept. 1, 2005, (link to article here: http://bit.ly/myoutsourcedlife). This article changed my entire perspective on business. No other article made me laugh then immediately experiment with its subject matter: outsourcing busy work.
By October 2005 I had a reliable assistant named Preetha from Bangalore, India. She stayed with me for three years before moving on in her own career as a human resources specialist. I never had Preetha interact with clients or vendors because I felt the accent barrier was too much to overcome, but she did absolutely everything else related to administrative duties. She was, and still is, wonderful.
A few months later I expanded my comfort zone from administrative outsourcing to practitioner engagement. Surely I could “homesource” marketing and PR specialists. Train them on our virtual systems and create a real firm, albeit virtual. And I wasn’t limited to the Cleveland talent pool, as good as it is. The world, as they say, was my oyster.
Up until 2008 we didn’t have an official “office” … yet we were servicing big-name clients. And did the clients care? Not one bit. Besides, we always traveled to them.
A receptionist in Portland, Ore. answered our phones. Our clients thought we were all in one office. And you know what, we were. We were just in different locations. But we always worked Eastern Standard Time.
Today, videoconferencing is as normal to us as a phone call. In fact, because of the seamlessness, we have more of a singular office than other traditional office settings I had worked in. Indeed, I would go weeks not seeing colleagues who were cooped-up in their offices in the “old world”.
Today we have a central office in Cleveland. Yet we service locations across North America. I travel to Chicago and New York at least twice a month to visit staff and clients in that area. And I’m developing business in California to open a depot in San Diego. But regardless of the expansion in those areas, I will be hard pressed to spend money on expensive and elaborate physical offices. Because I know, from experience, it doesn’t matter. It’s better to invest the money in talent and technology.
Right now our specialists are located in Edinborough, Scotland; Manila, Philipines; Toronto; Philadelphia; Chicago; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Boulder, Colo.; Canton, Ohio; Boise, Idaho; San Diego; and Berkley, Calif. Tomorrow, a specialist could be located in Sri Lanka. There are no borders.
A couple staff members and I have permanent offices in Cleveland. The Cleveland office also has work areas dedicated for staff, vendors or clients dropping in for a couple days or the week. (FYI, we still travel to our clients 95% of the time.)
We even have fun. We have a virtual lounge for office gossip. We also have a “bring your emoticon to work” day on Fridays. It’s complete hysteria and creates that belly-laugh fun that is so important to maintain sanity in this fast-paced business.
Every moment our firm becomes more virtual. And, strangely, it has become more of our reality … it’s our norm. And it hasn’t affected our client servicing. Quite the opposite, our virtualization has allowed for better real-time communication streams, less unnecessary meetings and more efficient workflow.
Mr. Jacobs, thank you for writing “My Outsourced Life” … whether you meant to or not you changed my life and the lives of our staff members.
Ron Watt Jr. is founder + president of Watt + Company LLC (WATT), a full-service, non-traditional PR and marketing firm based in Cleveland. For more information please visit: www.watt-co.com
“Then I stumbled on an article in Esquire, ‘My Outsourced Life,’ by A.J. Jacobs, Sept. 1, 2005, (link to article here: http://bit.ly/myoutsourcedlife). This article changed my entire perspective on business. No other article made me laugh then immediately experiment with its subject matter: outsourcing busy work.”
This is the cover of Esquire that helped build WATT.
tumblrbot asked: ROBOTS OR DINOSAURS?
Inductees Red Hot Chili Peppers pose in a press-room during the 27th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio.
Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images.
Rock Hall of Fame: 10 Things Seen + Heard Behind the Scenes
Every moment our firm becomes more virtual. And, strangely, it has become more of our reality … it’s our norm. — Blog Post, April 15, 2012, Ron Watt Jr.
I feel like the Eleanor Roosevelt of marketing and public relations. I grew up in this business, I married someone in the business and I have three adult children in it as well.
My favorite show on TV is “Mad Men.” This was the topsy-turvy, wild-and-crazy way – but very creative way – the business was when I was getting into the field. I worked for Darcy, Wyse, Griswold, and Interpublic and at Storer Broadcasting.
It’s a different world today, but there is a lot that hasn’t changed.
It’s still based on strategic creativity that positions brands and moves products and services. There is still – or should be – “the team” of client and agency. These are people who are bonded because they have developed over time a faith in one another, and they know they are in the mission together, both needing the other to reach the goals they are seeking to reach.
I’m happy that my husband has been in the field 45 years, and that two of our children chose to go into it as well.
There is no better business. It moves hills and mountains every day, although sometimes it seems like it is only molehills. I know if you keep going, keep a sense of humor and an open mind, you can really do something in this field.
Having so many family members – and future members – engaged in marketing and public relations creates a neurotic verve that reminds me of a rock ‘n’ roll band. You have to have that edge to bring on the new melodies that inspire the harmonies that create a new tune.
I can say this: We never take an old tune and redo it for a new singer. We like to create everything from scratch. And we like to make our clients and their brands, products and services the stars on their respective marketing stages.
Simona Watt, Office Manager
The Mother of Invention
Simona Watt is a gorgeous five-foot dynamo who has seen the industry from her own unique prism as an agency professional and wife and mother of marketing and PR practitioners.
Part of the WATT team enjoying dinner
With the majority of the population engaged in some sort of social media, it’s no surprise that most of the younger generation consider themselves experts in one type of social media or another. For example, here’s the gist of a random conversation I had with my friend:
Me: “So how are things going over there?”
Friend: “Just applying for a bunch of jobs … Some of these jobs are really dumb though. I mean, who can’t do social media marketing? Our whole generation is an expert at it!”
Me: “Wait, you’re a linguistics major! Social media marketing? Really?”
Friend: “I use Facebook everyday - I’m sure I could handle it, haha.”
Ironically, this thought process extended to most of my friends. Even more ironically, I didn’t know how to break it to my friend that I’d just landed an internship in London, and was planning on traveling halfway around the world for a company specializing in – bingo – social media marketing.
Prior to going to London, I wasn’t too worried. I mean, I majored in marketing, and I use Facebook and YouTube more than I’d care to admit. Expert? Well, no … but I thought I knew most platforms well enough – especially since I use them on a daily basis.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in the brightly lit London office, frowning at the computer screen in confusion. Why am I staring at an Excel spreadsheet when I was supposed to be working on social media? What are these stats anyway???
An hour later denial started to ebb away, to be replaced by the realization that I couldn’t be further from being an ‘expert’ in social media marketing than my 5-year-old neighbor. By the end of the day my conclusion was thus: Social media marketing is more difficult than the average person would assume.
One of my daily tasks, for example, was to update the viewer statistics so the next course of action could be decided accordingly. Interpreting the data wasn’t too hard, but deciding what to do next was. Early on in my internship, my target market was supposed to be Britain/USA. Imagine my dismay when I woke up one morning with the viewer statistics for both countries at a new low – with Ireland and Australia loving my posts more than ever!
With my deeply humbling internship over, here are some facts regarding social media that may surprise you:
With these statistics, it’s no wonder that so many companies are rushing to get their social media platforms set up. So the next time your friend says, “social media marketing?” in that oh-so-sarcastic tone, think again, and don’t fall for it!
Naoko Ohno, a recent graduate of RIT, is an intern at WATT. She enjoys reading marketing blogs and watching the Cleveland Cavs.