Greg Johnston is the SVP and Creative Director of AgencyQ,
an award-winning digital agency that transforms the way organizations reach, engage, and inspire their key audiences.
Greg has had a storied career working at agencies and he’s experienced the rapid evolution of the industry: from traditional marketing channels like print and TV to emerging channels like social, mobile, and digital. Greg has been successful in the industry, and maintained an upward trajectory throughout his career, because he’s constantly innovating, iterating, and evolving over time.
Survival of the Fittest
Greg has gone from the mailroom to a project manager to a copywriter to a creative director. As he and the industry evolved, shifting from traditional media to digital media, he observed that those who continued to thrive were always trying to innovate, learn new things, and do something different much like him.
In this constantly changing industry (and world), it comes down to adaptation and the survival of the fittest. You have to continually try to learn more so that you can deliver more value to your client and their audience.
Evolution requires self awareness and self-reflection - that means you have to listen
Greg says, “it's hard to not fall in love with your own success, but that success was based on what you did yesterday – not what you did today.” Yet the biggest barrier to self-reflection is listening and that isn’t just on the agency side but also on the client side. We, as a society, don’t always listen to each other very well. However, when we do listen, we need to pay attention to both the rational and emotional drivers in order to understand how to enable the agency and your clients move forward together.
Staying at the top of the agency industry, or your career, requires innovation, iterating, and evolving over time.
Some agencies fall behind during big industry shifts because they don’t have a culture of self-awareness or self-reflection. To evolve, you need to constantly review what you do, who you are, and how you fit into the industry. That process will reveal if things are changing.
Self-awareness and reflection however are fundamentally about listening. And listening needs to happen on all fronts: Agencies need to listen to clients, clients need to listen to agencies, and both need to listen to the client’s customers.
When your clients aren’t listening to your agency, you have to get to the heart of the reason, which could be rational or emotional. They may or may not tell you upfront, so you may have to pull it out of them to understand where their motivations and behaviors are coming from.
Agencies and clients often have different perspectives: agencies look at a client business from the outside-in and clients look at their business and industry from the inside-out. The agency-client relationship works best when agencies and clients meet in the middle.
Ultimately, it’s your clients’ customers you’re both trying to serve because they have more control than ever. Managing clients with both parties having that understanding is the holy grail. “It really does not matter what the client thinks. It really does not matter what the agency thinks. It matters what the end user or customer thinks.”