Posts tagged ‘lessons’

Lessons Learned, Part 5

Rolando

A graphic designer never stops learning because there is always something to improve upon or innovate. Six months have come and gone by so quickly. In that time, I have learned so much from my co-workers, colleagues and clients.

Here are a few things I’ve taken from being a part of the Zag team:

  • Comfort: The best thing a designer can do to stimulate his or her creative ability is to put them in an environment that they are comfortable with. I have played music, taken walks, joked around  — anything I could do to calm my nerves and de-stress myself. The advertising industry can be jarring at times, and I need all the help I can get.
  • Communication: The ability to communicate and stay organized is essential to an agency’s productivity (and sanity). I’ve learned to organize the thousands of files have had to work with into carefully placed folders so that at me and my co-workers can easily find and access them.
  • Criticism: You can’t please everyone, especially when it comes to design — an inherently subjective topic. I’ve learned how to take criticism of my work in a positive and professional manner in order to complete the task at hand. The first thing I realized was it was not criticism, but constructive criticism that I was hearing. Everyone in the agency is working together for the betterment of the company, and that’s something I haven’t forgetten.

And finally, have fun and enjoy the ride. Hopefully that goes without saying.

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11/13/2009 at 3:41 PM Leave a comment

Lessons Learned, Part 3

CollinIt’s official! Today marks exactly six months to the day since we opened our doors and went to work – not too bad for a couple of twenty-somethings in the midst of a recession.

During the past six months I have learned quite a bit, here are a couple of highlights:

Check then check again. I cannot emphasize just how important this is in the world of marketing. Credibility is really all you and your agency have. If you make and send out a brochure for a client and there is a mistake on it, not only have you wasted your client’s money, you have also hurt your agency’s credibility. This can be a killer seeing as how a lot of new business can come from referrals.

Always be willing to learn. Marketing is an always-changing entity. I equate marketing with golf – nobody can absolutely master it. However, you can still be great but it takes work. Stay vigilant on blogs and other media to see where trends are heading (what’s considered creative this year will be standard next year). Also, never underestimate the value of a mentor. They have been in the industry longer than you and know the subtle nuances that come with it. A mentor is the best resource you can have when you’re starting out your career.

Get to know your co-workers. Simply put, I love my job. Part of the reason is my passion for marketing (obviously), but another, almost as important factor is because the people I work with are awesome. We have all tried to make it a point to get to know each other outside of work, be it happy hour or lunch. This has created a fun atmosphere for all of us, which has definitely helped our productivity as an agency.

11/11/2009 at 3:36 PM Leave a comment

Lessons Learned, Part 2

AlexYesterday, Kelsey got the ball rolling for X.Y.Zag’s special blog theme this week. To reiterate, every staff member will post a few things they have learned and loved about agency life in honor of Zag’s six-month anniversary.

Over here, everyone has a different hat to wear; I fall on the creative side of things (but that doesn’t mean I have stayed there — more on that later). Because of these differences, we all take something unique from Zag as a whole.

Here are a a couple of things I have learned in lieu of our six month anniversary as a writer:

  • A copywriter’s job isn’t glamourous, but it’s very important. I like to say we are the first line of defense for clarity. We write messages that are clear and concise and edit content for the same criteria. It doesn’t matter what type of job it is, a copywriter/editor will find their way into it.
  • In a small agency like ours, job titles tend to shift around. Though I am formally a copywriter, I have had to do a lot of work related to account service such as research and presenting. Getting out of my comfort zone has been interesting, but ultimately worthwhile.
  • Tag lines are the bane of my existence. Writing short, simple and sweet is nice. But it’s definitely easier said than done. In most cases, I will write 20 or 30 tag ideas in a list, and it will naturally whittle away to the best one, which is really time-consuming.
  • An AP Stylebook is a (media) writer’s best friend. With our wide and diverse client base, I have had to deal with some strange grammar and style issues, and our work would have greatly suffered if it weren’t for this inexpensive paperback.
  • Like Kelsey said yesterday, enjoy the little things. We are service-oriented in this business, so we have to be constantly open and available for clients. The moments we have free time are spread out pretty thin, but it’s more about the quality in the time you spend rather than the quantity.

Get ready to read tomorrow’s post from our butt kickin’ account executive Collin — he’ll definitely have some interesting things to say (in a good way of course).

11/10/2009 at 11:40 AM Leave a comment

The fireworks of social media

collin-polaFireworks are awesome. They are fun to watch and even more fun to light. But here’s the thing about fireworks: if not handled correctly, they can be catastrophic.

The same point can be made about social media. It’s fun and attention-grabbing, but it can also be destructive if executed poorly. Yesterday, I read a blog post where the writer obviously did not learn about fire safety; so to my younger readers and those not too familiar with social media culture, here are some safety guidelines:

Social media is on the Internet and, therefore, public. Never, ever, EVER (just for emphasis) post something online thinking only a few people will see/read it. Just like you should assume a gun is always loaded, you should also always assume your friends are not your only audience.

Social media is not the best place to vent. Before I start, random Twitter or Facebook updates saying something like, “Man today sucked,” is not what I’m talking about. That is letting off steam; we all need to do it sometimes. What I am addressing is a full-blown vent-fest only appropriate for your friends, your mom or a psychiatrist. If you write an essay-long blog post publicly calling someone out (Kanye West is an exception, go to town on him) or blowing-up after something has bothered you for a while, it probably won’t end well. Remember guideline one: some unintended person will probably read it. If that happens, you will come off as rude or condescending, when instead you probably just had a really bad day.

Everyone has an opinion on social media (this article is proof). The Internet commenter is the modern critic. I’m not saying this a good or a bad thing, because I have seen it go both ways. Social media has provided the opportunity for pretty much anyone to point out a mistake you’ve made. Now stay with me here, if you are venting, you are generally mad. Anger can lead to irrational behavior, which often leads to mistakes. Once this happens and (playing off guideline two) your readers think you’re a jerk, enjoy the commentary firestorm that is to follow. If you give people a reason to talk bad about you, they will.

So that’s it, keep these rules in mind and your social media experience should be nothing but pleasant.

P.S. Everyone going to the TCU game on Saturday should grab a program. An ad we created for McKinley’s is featured, and it rocks. GO FROGS!

09/18/2009 at 1:56 PM Leave a comment

The conundrum of school and work

AlexIt’s Monday morning. I drag myself out of bed and go to class for three hours. After that, I find some spare time to scarf down a meal and then I’m suddenly off to work. When five o’clock rolls around, I’m driving back to TCU and sitting in class for another three hours – begging for life to stand still.

Yes, I’m pretty busy, but I’ve learned that life as an employee and student is a delicate balancing act.

And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a freshman in orientation, time management was a concept that the OSAs (orientation student assistants) would drill into our heads. It seemed simple enough. When you’re unemployed, all you have to do is go to class and somehow get your homework done (if you’re good).

Fast-forward three years and enter senior year, where I am a working at Zag and taking 15 hours this semester. This is where the balancing act goes to the circus.

Here are a couple things I’ve learned in the past week about managing valuable time:

Make a schedule and stick to it: It really helps to map out your day ahead of time, but also leave some time for yourself – for sanity’s sake.

Be very self-motivated: It’s tough to get motivated to go to work after hours of class, but I have tell you, a positive attitude works wonders.

Understand that you can’t control everything: I would love to be at work all day (yes, I’m weird), but I also need to make good grades. Some things take precedence over others; just pick your spots carefully

Unless you’re a freshman, never take an 8 a.m. class: I’m learning this lesson the hard way.

Honorable mention: You can never have too many alarm clocks; if you work and go to school, carrying a backpack to the office is not uncool; try to find a normal eating/sleeping schedule – crashing in the afternoon is no bueno.

With plenty of things coming in the next couple months (while hopefully avoiding swine flu), I think if I just stick to these mantras I should be fine.

08/31/2009 at 2:40 PM Leave a comment

Research: What the cool kids are doing

CollinIn my last post, I took great joy in mocking the fact that the line, “knowing is half the battle,” was actually written into script for the G.I. Joe movie. Now I find my foot in my mouth because that line is the perfect platform to launch this post. Irony, you are too cruel.

For the past month, a large part of my job has been devoted towards different types of market research. Why you might ask? Because in marketing, knowing is truly half the battle.

Today’s marketing environment is a constant and fast-paced race to find new and innovative ways to get through to people. With that, it is imperative you know as much as you can about who you are selling to and how to do it.

This is where a good research plan comes into play. If you develop a thorough understanding of factors like what appeals to your audience’s psychology and what others have done in the past, you build a foundation in which truly amazing and effective creative can come from.

Research doesn’t only apply to marketing, but it also can work in everyday life. While I am most certainly a proponent of diving head first into some things, I also know some decisions need to be made with a certain amount of background knowledge.

I’ll have a better opportunity to get that job if I learn about the company prior to an interview. I’ll enjoy that new couch I bought online more after I shopped around and found a better deal. I’ll be so happy I read those reviews before going to buy that Nickleback CD. I could really go all day with these examples.

At the risk of sounding like a parent, I’m going to wrap up this post. Just remember: while it is not the most thrilling thing to do, in marketing or your daily life, research pays off.

08/27/2009 at 11:18 AM Leave a comment

Three months and counting

AlexIt was a little more than three months ago that I began my internship here at Zag; how time flies.

Here are a couple of lessons I have learned in my short experience at a budding marketing agency:

Find a mentor. You’re an intern, not the greatest thing since sliced bread. There is much to learn in the industry, so find someone or a group of people (for me, the GCG employees upstairs) to pick their brain – they’ve been at this longer than you. Potential is nothing without inspiration.

The customer is always right. The cliché monster is back, but it’s true. You may have a great idea, but the client ultimately calls the shots – they pay the bills. If you want to run with an idea, be able to back it up – and don’t cry at the first sign of rejection.

The glass is half-full. Donald Draper, the fictional creative director of Sterling-Cooper in Mad Men says, “Advertising is based on one thing – happiness.” I fully agree with this statement; keeping a positive attitude toward your co-workers, clients and ultimately your work is the key to good advertising – no one wants a product when the advertisement/collateral gives an impression of negativity, and all of this is coming from a perpetual cynic.

You’ll have good days, and you’ll have really, really bad days. Most of the time in the office, everything runs smoothly, and there are some days where everything that could go wrong does (the proverbial “crap hitting the fan” day). Sure, the world may be plotting against you, but it’s how you get through these rough patches that defines you. Again, stay positive.

Learn to notice the little things. As a copywriter or creative, this is crucial. The smallest details – punctuation, spelling, sentence placement – can ruin the message you are trying to convey. Pay attention!

Honorable mention: You live or die by the deadline (duh); if you can’t come up with an idea yourself, brainstorm with others; don’t ever pass up free Dippin’ Dots in the lobby – they’re delicious.

08/17/2009 at 9:59 AM Leave a comment

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