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How to Network Like a Pro in St. Louis!

Networking can be intimidating—are people actually comfortable walking into a room of strangers and sparking up conversation? Attending networking events makes you get out of your comfort zone and test your boundaries. But did you know that this allows you to not only grow professionally but personally, too? 

There is always so much happening in St. Louis, and there are professional development or casual networking events all the time. Here’s a list of some of my top spots and suggestions on where to connect with other creative professionals: 

  • Meetups: There is a Meetup group for everything and anything under the sun, so check out their website and search for any particular topic you’re looking for such as “digital marketing” or “technology.” You are bound to find some kind of group or event to join! 
  • St. Louis Women In Tech Exchange: I attended a “Women In Tech” event earlier this year and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of community and support. This Meetup in particular was founded for women in technology looking to be empowered and celebrated for their place in tech. 
  • STLX: Are you interested in learning more about the User Experience space? Whether you’re a designer, developer, researcher of product manager, STLX is an excellent resource to meet others who are just as passionate as you are about the user experience. Plus, they host speakers to share market trends and resources to better your work! 
  • Eventbrite: This amazing website is home to thousands of events in the area. While you’re looking for something to do on Saturday night, take a peek at the business and networking section. 
  • 314 Digital: Stay up-to-date on all things digital marketing happening in the “314” with an organization dedicated to education and career development. 314 Digital hosts free monthly breakfast panels on various topics in the digital space. Last month I attended their event on reaching consumers in their purchase journey with high-level digital marketers on the panel and was able to meet marketing professionals from all over STL! 
  • Venture Cafe: Check out Venture Cafe every Thursday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. for weekly gatherings to connect innovators in a collaborative and engaging environment. Let them know if you’re new and one of their staff members will help introduce you to the group. It is a fun and helpful way to spend a Thursday! 
  • Creatives On Call: We are here to help you thrive while you strive. From the moment we first meet you’re officially part of the COC family! Join us for our monthly Coffee With Creatives events and Portfolio Revamps at local coffee shops, free Digital Workshops or our biannual Happy Hour at some of your favorite spots around town. Stay tuned on all the events we have to offer you to make networking easy!

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Mid-Year Temperature from Our View: Agencies vs. In-House

We are half-way through the year and many of those in the creative industry and those resourcing for creative talent are assessing whether the expectations of 2019 were on target.  Our discussions with agencies, in-house creative/marketing department managers and HR tells us that we are in a much different place then where we thought we would be at the start of 2019.

To set the scene, we finished out 2018 with the expectation of a massive development and building of in-house creative and marketing agencies/departments for the upcoming 2019.  Many agencies and marketing firms began to unravel or started to lean up.  In-house agencies started scooping up the lead talent to build their internal teams.  This cycle in our estimations has been turning for the last two years.  From Creatives On Call’s perspective the permanent hire portion of our business doubled year over year as corporations drove the demand for good talent within.  It was (and still is) a firm belief that in-house agencies teams were going to replace outside AOR.  Predominate reasoning was that agencies were less relevant to the corporate needs; doubling down the talks that agency costs incurred excessive and bloated pricing structures and disruptor options of online sourcing platforms such as Upworks were compelling arguments for bringing fresh ideas to the corporate table via outside resources.  

In-house agencies believed (and positioned their worth) that they had better insider baseball because they possessed the advantages to obtain highly sensitive information and to stage creative within an incubator like environment.  The talents’ view of agencies vs. corporations was quickly changing as well; and the truth was that corporations did provide better salaries for digital & tech talent, better benefits with job security and better life work balance.  The in-house shop implies a promise for faster speed to completion along with corporate accountability.  The most important in-house factor was that corporations were collecting the freshest talent resources, as in the newest talent (college grads). College grads are firmly turning their backs on the once highly desired cool agency work-lifestyle vibe for corporates coveted life outside of work options and benefits and/or the now viable career choice of gig-work.  

But, (and with a strong emphasis here) the second quarter of this year we’ve seen a distinct flip-flop on the east and west coasts (the Midwest is taking it’s time to revert).  Corporate work is minimizing and in-house shops are trending to lean on agencies again.  It most definitely begs the question as to “why?”.

 I asked both our agency clients and corporate clients what their thoughts were on the change and an interesting list of reasons emerged:

  • Corporations had higher expectations of output from the newly expanded internal teams.  It’s tough to get a team to gel in short order – corporate expects it regardless of how difficult it is to accomplish.
  • Most In-House departments were built by agency talent that did not “understand” corporate politics and operations.  And they tend to “buck” the systems of corporate.
  • Operations (and Finance & HR) realized it was a much easier and quicker boat to turn with an outside AOR over the addition and reduction of staff when costs need to be toggled. 

The largest find that seemed to drive the flip was focused around the feeling of luke-warm success of the hired in-house leadership.  Rule number one that corporations are learning – don’t hire an agency Creative Director as the leader of a corporate creative department.  It’s a tough expectation of a CD to learn the ropes of operations and management.  And ultimately, when they struggle with the operational challenges they lean into and revert to their creative talents as a diversion to the management aspect.  Corporations see a flash of creative drive initially from the CD but once that flame is spent the embers and ashes are not enough to provide the leadership that an in-house department needs.  Counter to these points are those in-house teams that seemed to thrive; and those hands down possessed leadership that was stacked with marketing or operational managers, often blended with past creative industry experience.

The findings that we made were that many of the CD leaders suffered and marketing & operational leaders thrived – all heavily based upon if they could adopt formal process.  Operational leaders are trained and honor the needs of the business; complying generally with accounting, internal billing and procurement rules.  The success of CD leaders was tough –it can be said that their strengths were their weaknesses.  CD leaders were reported to have a tendency to be creative all the time, in such areas as accounting and internal billings.  The creative ideas that did not follow process tested the limits of HR, legal and often times political correctness. 

The outcome of 2018-mid 2019: Many of the CD leaders left the corporate in-house world.  Going back to their roots of agency life was a comfort.   Many agencies are welcoming their alumni back with open arms because with the reunion of ex-corp CDs comes with the creative corporate work that they started when in-house.

Moral of the first part of the 2019 story – what goes up must come down, and around and back up again.  Agencies are picking up speed as corporate expands outside budgets again.

Happy remainder of 2019 to our agency and corporate clients and most importantly the creative talent!

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Tequila, Email, or Both?

Ah, vacation season. When you’re on vacation, you love it, when you’re sitting at your desk seeing other’s post pictures of their beaches and cocktails, you hate it. But nevertheless, it’s here. 

 My name is Kathryn Sturm, I am the Marketing Manager at Creatives On Call and have worked in almost every work-style in the creative industry since graduating college. From big agencies, to small agencies, start-ups, in-house, and then two years working for myself, I’ve dealt with every aspect of taking time off as I am an avid traveler. From three weeks in Spain, two weeks in Peru, to weekend trips to NYC, I’ve done it all and when it comes to getting away yet staying on top of things, I’m your girl. 

So you are going on vacation, maybe it’s a long one or maybe it’s a short one but you also are a responsible human who has a job - how do you make that work? Are you the person who totally unplugs completely and deals with a pile of paperwork and emails when you get back? Or are you the person who sacrifices some vacation time to check in once in a while and do some work while out? 

Let’s discuss.

First, let’s start with the basics. Do you need to work on vacation? Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to see if working a bit on vacation is something you’ll need to pull off:

• Do you have a huge project due when you are back?

• Are you a manager? / Do people rely on your input and opinion on a day to day basis?

• Does updated information on a day to day basis come from you?

• Could someone else step in to do the work you do for a short period of time?

• How bad do you need this “unplug” time from work?

• Are you ABLE to work on vacation, aka, do you have wifi, do you have ability?

• How long is the vacation?  

At this point, you’ve come to your own conclusion. So, if you’ve decided to work while out, here’s how I would do it. 

 Morning Check In

I’m a morning person. Yes, even on vacation. I am the kind of person who can’t sleep past 7am... no matter how many Tito’s and sodas I had the night before. So, I take advantage of this time while the rest of the crew is still asleep on ocean time to plug in. I get up, make a hot tea, and set up on my laptop to check emails, do some small amounts of production work with what needs to get out the door, and send emails to my team so they know I’m aware of company happenings.

I believe one of the most important parts of recognizing you’re out and that your team still relies on you is getting in their inbox, responding to anything going on. This changes the vibe from total MIA to ‘hey, I’m briefly here and can support you’. If you are looking at long term at this company, you’ll be surprised how appreciated it is that you’re not just totally off the grid - if possible. 

After I get the bare bones of what needs to get done in the morning, shut down the laptop and put it away as your family/friends get up and plug back into vacation and time with the people you love. You’re in good shape.

Throughout the Day Check In

My rule for checking in throughout the day on vacation is… don’t. You are gone for a reason. Turn your email notifications off on the flight or drive there, know your teammates won’t text you unless its something they absolutely cannot handle. The day is yours.

Evening Check In

Unlike the morning check in, evening vacation “work” should be VERY brief. This is a time for emails and answering questions from the morning only. Best time for this is pre-cocktail hour/dinner. Before you get in the shower to get ready for the evening, take a quick scroll through things that need your attention. Then, sign off for the rest of the evening. 

Taking a Break

I would like to say, overall, the most important thing about being gone is you are refreshing yourself mentally, emotionally, physically for being back. Have you ever noticed everyone uses their vacation photos for their social media profile pictures? It’s because you look better from relaxation in them - make sure while you are gone you are totally relaxing to the best of your ability.

For me, total relaxation means checking in a bit and knowing that I won’t be met by a huge amount of emails when I get back to the office. Post-vacation stress is a thing! On the other hand - if you’re not one to care about that and are expecting the pile of emails/work, more power to you! Do what works best for you.

Other Ways to Work

Do you think I’m insane for checking in that much while away? I get it. I’m a psychopath. Here’s a list of other ways to stay on top of your role/business/industry while out that has NOTHING to do with checking email, working through projects, or even TALKING to anyone you work with:

 • Read a book (on the beach, preferably with a beer) that is continued learning for your role. Something industry-related.

• Got a rainy evening? Watch some video tutorial on something you’ve been meaning to do and learn. Come back to work with a new skill, no matter how small.

• Let the ocean breeze get your creative juices flowing - concept a new project, idea, or strategy while you are totally relaxed to present to everyone when you’re back at work. Maybe that’s the perspective everyone needs!

In conclusion, your time off is just that, yours. Be good to yourself and do what’s best!

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