Last week Andy Whitlock from Made By Many posted this post and associated job description. He described how the company is currently looking for “someone to ‘live with us’, be a part of the team, and help to extract the insights and opinions that are trapped inside us and our projects and get them out there”. Moving someone like this into your business is a special process, and one I know a thing or two about.
The idea of an “embedded storyteller” is representative of a shift many businesses are undertaking to make marketing more in-grained. Doing so builds vital bridges that enables a brand to react in real-time to the world around it. For consultancies too, this kind of role can add a lot of value — it demonstrates their approach above and beyond client work (most of which is NDA-d), it surfaces creativity that would otherwise be on the cutting room floor, and it allows them to “join the conversation” in an honourable way with clients and talent.
A “live-in journalist” is pretty close to the position I currently hold at Wolff Olins (Head of Content), and similar to the one I previously held at Moving Brands. I’ve also spoken informally to other company founders and owners, about how to recruit for this kind of role. While I’m happy where I am, I do figure I’m well placed to offer some friendly tips and truth bombs on this relatively obscure subject. So here goes, unsolicited advice coming up…
Firstly, I’m with Andy on the job title. No matter how you spin it, it either sounds limiting, pointless, or horribly cringe-y. To be honest, the title doesn’t really matter, because hiring for this role is more about finding that special snowflake who meshes perfectly with your own distinct company culture. And, like snowflakes, no two are likely to be the same with the same skills or experience.
Fangirl/boy is probably the most accurate description — this person needs to be obsessed with the company they’re embedded into and willing to do whatever it takes to spread the word. Like a OneDirection fan, but with less crying over Zayn and more articulate blogging.
That said, a strategic mind is crucial. This role relies on being able to channel the strategic direction of the company and whip it into stories. It’s no coincidence that ‘strategy’ is in my job title, and I fought to keep it there when I moved from being a client-side strategist. My first move in the job was to develop a content strategy that is built out of the business objectives. It provides a clear overview of the goals content needs to achieve, the principles for content creation, and guidelines for how each separate channel (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) works in the service of that. I’ve seeded this through shares in every office (London, San Francisco, New York and Dubai), and with every community (Strategy, Design, Tech, and Programme Management). Beyond that, I try to demonstrate the usefulness of content wherever possible — from helping individuals become known for something, to weaving relevant home-baked content into business development outreach.
The most impactful way to embed a storyteller is to get them nice and cosy at the heart of the organisation. This means regular contact and access to the business leaders. I meet weekly with our CEO, Ije Nwokorie, and my permanent desk is on the new business “pod”. Hearing everything first-hand, being party to slight shifts in direction, and understanding how the offer is being sold in day-to-day, means all communication is (hopefully) on point and the money.
Structure and process aside, this role is also highly visible and answerable to a lot. Andy’s notion of the “unburdened mouth piece” is spot on, but his belief that this person will be “less busy” is not. While I no longer stay late on pitches, or re-write PowerPoints on the flight back from a meeting, I’m still busy, and the person you hire can’t be no slouch. The role demands that you are permanently plugged into the mainframe — connected deeply to project work, the internal culture and relevant goings on in the outside world. As Andy describes, “a real part of our team, in our meetings, at our lunch table and on our blog” — sounds like a busy day to me!
“Everyone as a potential contributor to the network”, is a good mantra.
Andy — I’ve relied on people taking a punt on me and what I think is possible for content/storytelling/marketing/whatever, and it sounds like you’re up for taking a punt on it too. That special someone you’ll want to move in with is out there. And when you do, here’s 5 things that will make them love you forever
- Give them a budget and the resource to bring stories to life. A bit of design time can go a long way.
- Train them up. Invest in their education (SEO, video production, InDesign), knowing they’ll bring that know-how back into the business.
- Put them on a project. It builds vital relationships and boosts credibility.
- Offer regular feedback. It’s unchartered territory, navigate it with them.
- Champion them as much as they champion you.
Ultimately, I applaud any business up for investing in this kind of role and we’re seeing it more and more. Whether you’re a brand or a creative consultancy, having a distinct point of view on the world is important. It’s how you attract customers or clients, retain talent, and — above all — share what you give a damn about with others who might give a damn about it too.
This post originally appeared on Medium. To read it there with commentary from Andy click this.