Be Who, And What, You Are

Scott Belsky of Behance and The 99% Percent mentioned the need for transparency on Twitter yesterday.

That’s a funny but poignant way of putting it, because the very reason that organizations oppose the call for transparency is in order to control the message.

“If everyone doesn’t know the story, they’ll make up their own.” Damn, that about sums it up.

Yet, I often bump into situations where agency principals want to keep a lid on things. All sorts of things–everything from head counts to how many clients they have and what work they’re actually doing for those clients. The head count disguise is particularly sophomoric. A shop has the number of people it has on board, period. It’s not a fact that can be massaged. But “the oily massage” is standard operating procedure at most agencies.

New business wins are another area where agency principals clam up. Sure, some shout their wins to the high heavens, but others won’t tell a soul. Partly, it’s a real concern about saying things their clients don’t want to hear, but more often than not it’s fear of having employees poached by a competitor. Or fear of appearing too successful. A firm that’s overly successful has to pay people more money, and worse, may face client requests for fee restructuring.

So what motivation is there for letting it all hang out? Why conduct one’s business out in the open, where everyone can see? So people know your story, as Belsky said. And frankly, there’s nothing like a true story to captivate an audience.

Because Bonehook is a new company, we have a lot of explaining to do. I could perform “the oily massage.” All good copywriters know how to do it. But I’d rather just come out with it. Right now, Bonehook is a one person company, but that one person (me), knows lots of other people in the business. People to partner with on a multitude of projects.

Over beers, a friend recently characterized Bonehook as a consultancy. I said, yes, like all agencies are brand consultants. But no, because Bonehook actually does the things it recommends to clients. I know some great consultants, and I don’t want to diminish their important contributions, but I prefer to do more than advise. I need to build things and clients are the patrons who need these things built. My most trusted friends in the business are the designers, web developers, directors, editors, photographers, etc. that I work with to do the jobs. This keeps Bonehook’s overhead low and also allows for much greater flexibility, creatively speaking.

Agency heads desperately want to say their shop can do it all. But it’s almost always a lie. No shop can do it all. But every shop can be the central point of contact and most trusted adviser to a client.

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