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Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!

Prior to joining TSA, I was an ad agency copywriter. I remember on my first day at one job, I overheard a co-worker remarking that blogs were “so three years ago.” He was implying that blogs were just a fad. There was no further talk of social media, SEO or anything like that. My first project was to come up with some ideas for promoting the agency within the industry and for recruiting. Just about all of my ideas involved elements of social networking but the one thing that stuck out was when I mentioned that we should optimize our website. My boss, the creative director, had never heard of SEO so I told him the basics. After a number of follow up email exchanges with my boss, I then took my ideas to the executive management but there was so much resistance to the SEO idea (oooohhh, SEO is so scary!) that I was only able to find one or two people in management who took me seriously. After several months and hours of discussions, I was able to convince them to change their site and let me write some optimized meta data and on-site content. Well sort of. I was at the agency for less than a year and not too long after I left, they switched things up again by adopting a 100% flash-based site with no evidence of any optimized pages.

Now this was an ad agency that hyped up the fact that they were one of the oldest agencies in the U.S. From my perspective, their knowledge of current marketing strategies reflected the age of the agency perfectly. My argument was that since the agency was one of the biggest in the region but didn’t even rank in Google for various local searches other than brand terms it meant that they should be optimizing their website. Unfortunately it was like talking to a brick wall. I was a young kid just out of school so how could I have any good ideas right?

A few months later, I heard that they had put together a social media department touting how much expertise the agency had with online marketing. I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Was this the same agency that had never heard of SEO nor cared to know about it?!? It occurred to me that the one guy in the agency that knew his stuff was probably able to sell the management on the idea because his resume was much more established than my own and he probably had the relationships within that I didn’t.

That brings me to my point: The best ideas can and should come from anywhere inside or outside of the organization. It shouldn’t matter if you are friends with the person or not, ignore who they are, and listen to what they are really saying. By failing to do so, companies are falling behind the times. Any company that wants to succed with online marketing should be listening to the kids because they are often the most connected to what is going on in cyberspace.