Are You Cross-Training Your Agency Staffers?

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MARC BROWNSTEIN: When most people start out in the agency business, they are asked what department they are interested in. Creative (art or copy). Account management. Public relations. Production. Interactive. Or account planning. We typically put talent in silos. And it's there they stay for a good part of their careers.

But, in a world where integrated marketing is obviously becoming more and more relevant, are we doing these people a disservice by keeping them in these silos?

I think so.

Today, if small agencies are to thrive, our significant edge is our ability to be nimble. Move faster and more agile than the big shops. We need to break out of our silos, and integrate our talent more seamlessly, and more often. PR professionals need to learn the art of advertising. Art directors need to create in the traditional and digital worlds. Account planners need to apply their insights to pr. Account management has to manage interactive projects at the speed of the internet, while keeping the message on strategy and the client's expectations in check. Advertising production has to learn project management from the world of interactive marketing. In short, everyone in an integrated agency has to learn each others' craft, enough to be so-called dangerous. And certainly enough to provide value to clients with a single message, executed across disciplines.

If I was an art director, working on mostly print ads, TV and outdoor, I'd make damn sure I learned how to also create a rich-media email. I'd go to my manager and ask for training. It is also incumbent on agency management to proactively cross-train their talent to work in and understand the other complementary marketing disciplines. And it needs to happen ASAP. Before our talent are labeled obsolete.
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