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How agencies can be helpful during the crisis

Chip and Gini have talked regularly about the need for agencies to adopt a helpful mindset, especially amid these turbulent times.

In this episode, the co-hosts explore some specific ideas that listeners can implement to be helpful to their own clients, prospects, and others.


The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I am Chip Griffin

GINI: and I am Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and we are here to be helpful. We are and actually, of today’s

GINI: episode Wow, what a weird segue.

CHIP: Yeah, you know, it’s like occasionally I don’t totally muck it up and you know, do a decent job of it. So we are we are talking about ways that you can be helpful because we’ve been saying on this podcast for quite some time since we got into the midst of this crisis that you need to find ways to be human and helpful and all that and so we thought it would be helpful to talk about being helpful

GINI: and you were very prepared because you actually wrote down some ideas. I have them all in my head and I did think about it but you went the extra step and wrote them down.

CHIP: Well, I my memory has gone the same places my hair, it’s just

GINI: non existent,

CHIP: non existent. And so I thought I would write something down and I’m, you know, one of my goals for this year was to be more prepared. For this podcast, I’ve generally failed at that. But today I’m

GINI: I mean, to be fair, I think that we probably all had some goals in January that we’ve not been able to fulfill

CHIP: that year. That is fair. That is fair. Oh, I do like to say when people ask me how things are going, I always say, Well, this is exactly how I drew it up when I was doing my 2020. Planning.

GINI: Yeah, we all did. Yeah, exactly.

CHIP: Not so much. In any case. So if you want to be helpful to people, because being helpful is something that will come back in and benefit you and your agency in the future. How can you be helpful, Jimmy?

GINI: Well, you’re the one with the list. But I actually it’s interesting. We have started this series on Spin Sucks called my hot mess, which runs every Friday and we’re talking to different communicators about how they’re managing how they’re managing with kids at home, different ages, how they’re managing with aging parents, how they’re managing if their business has gone away, like you know just how we’re managing And we’re trying to look at different different perspectives and different experiences just to you know, so that people understand that while we are not all in this together we are in this at the same time and they are different experiences in all this and as part of that I was editing tomorrow’s we’re recording this on a Thursday I was editing the one that Rob bees and Bach has done for us. And he talks about in there how he created a an online course that teaches people how to take their keynote presentations there panel discussions, you know, things like that online because a lot of people don’t have that experience. They don’t they’ve never done a webinar before. They’ve never participated in a webinar that you know, so those kinds of things. So, he’s he did, he’s done a really nice job of his pivoting his own his speaking business into something online and he’s offering it for free. So I think that’s a really interesting way to both give back and create good karma, but also build thought leadership and brand equity in a time where people need it.

CHIP: Absolutely. I mean, creating resources for people and particularly research resources that you make available for free. It’s, it’s something a lot of folks are doing right now. And I think it is, it’s incredibly beneficial. Because you you are helping to people to navigate places that they haven’t been before. It’s the resources are generally not things that someone’s going to pay for right now for various reasons. So, you know, making it available for free makes a ton of sense, if that’s something that you can do.

GINI: Yeah, I like that. There are a couple of other things that I’ve seen and we’ve done as well, where you you’re offering and not totally for free, but offering your senior level people in your agency for an hour to discuss issues or come up with a quick social media plan or come up with a quick content, editorial calendar or things like that. It’s an hour and it cost a couple hundred bucks, you know, things that you wouldn’t you would not normally get the leadership team for, but you can get, and certainly not at the price that I’ve seen, right, um, but that you can get, you can gain access to the leaders as a client as a client or a prospect, you know, for $300 and get come away with something that you can actually execute on.

CHIP: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s sort of an extension of what I love to pick your brain type meetings. Yeah, except that you’re being proactive and saying, Look, I’m making this time available. And that’s, that’s certainly something that I’ve done. I’ve been advertising that I’ll talk for an hour with any agency leader who wants to talk something through. And it doesn’t matter whether they want to solve a particular challenge or just talk or write whatever I mean, there’s and I and it is, as with with my advocacy of pick your brain type meetings, it has mutual benefit, because you’re able to learn a lot about your target market if you’re giving away this time, because people will open up about their challenges. So Yes. Are you

GINI: giving your time away? Are you charging?

CHIP: Oh, giving it away? Yeah. Yeah. You know, and I’ve done quite a few of these sessions now. And it is it is fascinating to see the different states that different agencies are in the challenges that they have. And and there really is, you know, there are some common themes, but folks are in very different positions. In fact, I was talking with an agency yesterday that’s actually in pretty good shape financially hasn’t lost a lot of business. And, and their big question is, when do they reopen their offices once, you know, once their state allows it interesting, when and how will they do it? And they’re actually in pretty good shape for that too, because they’ve already got, you know, HIPAA filters in their office. And you know, that the hand sanitizers and things like that, so they’re looking more at things like putting in dividers between workstations that are you know, more substantial and things like that. So they’re just seeing they’re ahead of the curve just based on their, you know, previous behavior by walk. The open

GINI: floor concept will go away. Hmm, interesting.

CHIP: Yes. And then A one of my former co workers, john Phillips, who is a noted germaphobe has been celebrating on social media. I’ll just roll the driveway. Open Office plans. Yeah,

GINI: I’m not a big fan of that either.

CHIP: I have mixed views of it personally. But in any case, I will save the open forum topic and have her on to talk about that. Absolutely. I’m sure she would. She would love to do it. I can’t think of anyone who was probably more prepared for this pandemic. From a from a sanitizer standpoint than she was. That’s awesome. Well, let me since you’ve offered a couple, let me offer a couple and we’ve kind of go back and forth here and I’ll try not to whack my desk to hardly there and hopefully that didn’t sound too loud on the recording. But, you know, I think two of the simplest things that you can do our first to listen, a lot of folks just want to talk they just want to To share, guess what their concerns are? So give them an opportunity to do that. of that. Yes. And then the second one is sort of the corollary, which is asked how you can help. Yeah. And it’s, it seems so simple. And yet, many of us don’t do that I have to proactively remind myself sometimes, you know, just, in the course of this conversation, just ask, How can I help? What can I do? And you’ll be surprised at some of the things I think that that folks ask for, or suggest and it’s just again, it goes back to that being human concept that I think is so important, all the time, but particularly now.

GINI: Yeah, I mean, listening is obviously a very, very good one. And that should go beyond just the crisis, just the pandemic. I think human beings in general tend to listen to answer and not not listen to listen. So now is a very good time to practice your listening skills.

CHIP: Right. And I think it’s also a good time to, to be the person who brings other people together. So be a convener. So whether that’s through a slack community like you have for Spin Sucks and folks who follow that, or it’s pulling together a virtual happy hour or something else, you know, being someone who brings people together in a time like this can be beneficial for everybody as well.

GINI: Totally agree. And sometimes you might have somebody new pop into your zoom.

CHIP: Yes, yes, we have not had an appearance from your intern yet today. But I’m sure that if we if we continue talking long enough, you’re in Yeah.

GINI: I can usually get 30 minutes of solid time without interruption with something like this. We’ll see.

CHIP: And then speaking of of interns and people who helped you out, you know, one of the other things you can do if your agency is in a strong financial position is to prioritize payments to some of the smaller folks who you contract with. So whether those are independent contractors or smaller companies that are vendors, you know, those people are looking for cash flow in So if you are fortunate enough to be in the position that you have retain most of your business and you have the cash flow, if you can accelerate payments to those vendors that can be very helpful in these times too.

GINI: Yeah. And I think going beyond that to looking at your agency, if you’re in a strong financial position and and look at it and say, Oh, you know, we haven’t we’ve been talking about creating a logo, or we’ve been talking about new stationery, or we need to update the website, or Gosh, it’d be great if somebody helps us get in front of journalists or you know, find the things that have been on the back burner for a while and outsource that. Because though those contractors or solopreneurs need the revenue and need the cash flow. So if you are in a position to be able to offer that do that now is a good time, even if you don’t have the bandwidth to do it yourself, outsource it so that you’re helping bring the economy back little by little as well.

CHIP: Right. And we’ve talked about how this situation does present opportunities for folks If you are in a strong financial position as an agency, you can actually gain ground but in the process help people along the way, in the way that you’ve just described. So it’s, uh, yeah, anytime that you’re being helpful, and can make it a win win, that’s even better. Certainly your first priority should be to help but if you can derive some benefit from it in the short term as well, you know, why not do that?

GINI: Yeah. I’m a big fan of, I like to pick your brain, my brain meetings for free. I like the, you know, we always do what I call sort of a mindset call where it’s, you know, where are things How are you? How are you good, how are you doing? And it’s just listen, we don’t is sometimes something comes out of it. You know, sometimes I’ll say, Hey, I recommend that you read this book or this book or try this or have you thought about this, but usually, it’s just because as, as leaders, we don’t have anybody to talk to who understands what it is that we’re going through, we don’t and so giving given the opportunity to be able to talk to you People who would be prospective clients later on, and build that trust now, I think is really important.

CHIP: Yeah. And of course, you also need to be careful that you don’t you make this Boomerang back on yourself in a negative way. So you really have to resist the urge to sell your own services during those calls. And I know it can be tempting, if someone’s calling up and saying, you know, I’ve got this communications challenge and you’re giving them ideas, you say, Oh, well, you know, we could do this for you. And we could do that for you. And certainly, if they ask you, how could you help me with that? Fine. Answer the question. I’m not saying you have to say I’m sorry, I can’t talk about that. But but but resist that urge that we all have naturally to offer the solution that involves hiring us for something because then then you’ve turned it from being helpful into just a thinly disguised sales presence. Oh, shit. Yep, totally. And that, that defeats the whole purpose of trying to be helpful,

GINI: rather than that list,

CHIP: so another one that I have, and a lot of folks have been doing this as curating resources. So think about your The folks that you serve and think about what their needs are and try to put together some resources. So you don’t, you don’t have to create everything yourself. Certainly, if you’ve got the ability to create a training session, like you were describing earlier, for folks who are doing virtual presentations where you can do that, but an easier step is often just to curate things, you’re probably out there looking at a lot of this material already. So just, you know, copy and paste links and put it on your website, I have a simple page. It’s something that that I’ve done with some of the content that we’re creating. I know a lot of other folks in the community are doing similar things. But you know, be that resource for people in a virtual way, not just by being on the phone with them.

GINI: Yeah, I love that we’ve we’ve done something similar as well, um, is in we keep we’ve kept it open source so that people can keep adding to it. So that’s made it pretty easy to and it’s low stress for us because we’re not the ones having to keep it updated and it is, people are updating it and adding to it. So I like that idea a lot too. And it gets people to your website, which is always good.

CHIP: Absolutely. And you know, as you think about, you know, curating the other thing to do is to curate relationships. So try to be a matchmaker at this point in time. How can you make connections between people in your network? So, you know, when when you get someone who emails you about something, think about, Hey, is there someone that I should connect that individual with? And that’s something I’ve been trying to do more proactively in recent weeks as well just try to think about, you know, who should who should meet each other right now? Yeah, folks have that time. And if you’re able to make a connection that that works out for them, they’ll remember who made that introduction.

GINI: That’s funny, because I do that naturally. And it never even occurred to me that that should be something that would be on the list.

CHIP: Yeah. And I, and I do it by happenstance, but I’ve been trying to be more intentional about it, which I think is, you know, one of the keys A lot of us, you know, may not be thinking about it in every single interaction, but I really am at this point, trying to think about it every single night. Who can I connect?

GINI: I love it. So I love it. I love that.

CHIP: And then the final thing that I had on on my list that we haven’t already covered is just show up, just be there. And so you know, that means if if someone invites you to do something, and you can participate, do it because that they’ve probably got a reason for setting up their own virtual happy hour or a webinar or, you know, inviting you to participate in a podcast interview, to the extent that you can, and obviously, you know, we understand everybody’s got pressures on their time and that sort of thing. But to the extent that you can show up because merely being there for someone doing something they’ve asked you to do will be helpful in these times.

GINI: I will give you a very good example of that. I participated in a an Ohio tourism and visitor convention and Visitor’s Bureau zoom chat. It was toward the end of the day, and you better than to do it because my intern does not behave toward the end. To the day. And from my perspective, it was a complete disaster because I was threading a needle for her while she was sewing. And I was answering questions, their questions about social media and content. So I’m multitasking to the enth degree. And I was mortified, I will, I will admit that I was mortified. But afterwards, there were about 10 people on the call, and eight of them reached out to me and said, Thank you, because you just showed us that what we’re experiencing all of us are experiencing is normal. So even though I was mortified, and I would very much like it if my intern just sat here quietly, like she’s doing right now. And didn’t disturb that’s just not the way it is all the time. And if even if you can’t show up, it’s the perfect of situations still show up.

CHIP: Yeah, and particular, I mean, obviously, it doesn’t work. If you bring a podcast guest you have to be fully present, but it is a virtual happy hour or something like Where you can show up and just put it on mute. You know, people aren’t aren’t going to, you know, care that you’ve got, you know, the the dog barking in the background, the intern looking your hair or whatever.

GINI: then by the way, she does that. It’s very strange.

CHIP: And for those of you who are not familiar and may be listening to this podcast, maybe for the first time the intern is Jenny’s daughter, so she does not have an actual intern that likes her hair. That would be

GINI: very strange. That would be weirder. Yeah.

CHIP: Yeah. That then I would suggest you probably need an HR consultant in a serious way. At a minimum, and perhaps more. Yeah, no, I mean, I, you know, so I think that, you know, we need to all be realistic in our expectations of each other. And so if we’re able to show up and not be, you know, perfectly present and the opportunity is right for that, so be it. You know, I’ve been on plenty of virtual happy hours over the course of the last month where people are, you know, vaguely paying attention or maybe they’re turning their video. camera on and off as they pop off camera to do something. So if you still managed to show up and are participating in some fashion, and that whoever’s organizing that I’m sure is appreciating it,

GINI: for sure. And you might even have a 300 pound naked man show up. So

CHIP: yes, yeah, that was that was different. So that just again, for those of you listening for the first time and saying, Oh my god, what are these people doing and what are their lives like? I was on a zoom chat that was zoom bombed or whatever. They’re calling it, zoom, hacked. Zoom Paktika was it. It was, it was a publicly shared link and not dropped, jobs, shared the link around and they all decided to show up simultaneously. That’s awesome. It was actually it was actually a FLIR Podcast Network. So I’m kind of sad I missed it. Since the show is on the FLIR Podcast Network, it seems appropriate to share here. It was completely inappropriate what was taking place on the video though, unfortunately, cannot unsee I know all that was seen. So thank you. Thank you for reminding me about that. Jenny, welcome.

GINI: I’m gonna bring it up every so often just so it stays fresh in your mind.

CHIP: Yeah, um, folks that is not on the list of helpful ideas. Just Just to be clear, reminding people of traumatic events. not helpful. Don’t do it. Listen, but, but hopefully, we’ve managed to provide some actually good ideas for being helpful, and things that you can use and apply in your own business as we all muddle our way through whatever we want to call this time.

GINI: Yes, indeed. We have.

CHIP: I’m pretty proud of ourselves. We’ve mostly behaved ourselves. Well, we’ve been fairly useful we did some preparation right? Pretty good. I mean, I mean, this is a pretty good episode I’d say this is I think we knocked it out of the park so

GINI: we’re now we’re breaker arms bit patting ourselves on the back.

CHIP: Well, you know, we can’t hit any actual home run. So bear you can hit not a theoretical home. Run. Anyway, with that I am Chip Griffin

GINI: and I’m Gini Dietrich,

CHIP: and it depends

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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