19 Jul What the mid-year offsite taught us about finding opportunity in uncertainty
By Anna Swenson
If you, like us, work in the world of Silicon Valley, startups and tech, you understand the cyclical peaks and valleys that come with it. In the past six months, we’ve seen a slowdown in the number of VC deals as well as the amount of investment, while companies that once looked like the Great and Powerful Oz turned out to be nothing more than a man (or woman) behind a curtain.
This uncertainty was a key point of discussion at our company mid-year offsite. As an agency based in San Francisco, our clients are right in the middle of those ups and downs. But rather than viewing change as something to fear, the meeting gave us an opportunity to innovate, invigorate and recommit ourselves to telling great stories for great companies.
A day of sessions, panels, guest speakers and collaborative projects taught us a few truths about navigating uncertain times:
Content and context matter. When investment is flowing freely, it’s easier for companies to attract attention without a great product. When VCs tighten the purse strings, the strongest companies rise to the top while companies without a developed product/service and a clear path to profitability are weeded out. For example, many of today’s tech stalwarts, such as Uber and Airbnb, emerged from the financial crisis.
That’s good for us, because the companies who turn to us are in a position to become market leaders without dependence on additional investment to fuel growth. We want to work with clients capable of making a substantial impact on their industry and changing the world. The journey to industry leader requires a bold vision and fostering a connection with customers, making storytelling an essential aspect of a company’s marketing initiative. In turn, it’s up to us to raise our clients’ profiles to get them to the next level.
Authenticity only gets more valuable. Victoria Smith, the blogger behind SF Girl by Bay and one of the earliest digital influencers, joined us as a guest speaker to share her insight. Interestingly, the brand pillar her readers are most attracted to is the same one that always comes up in our strategy and client discussions: Authenticity. Smith shared that she declines most of the invitations she receives from brands as they products don’t align with her brand and values. Many companies want to promote products that are too expensive for her readers, or their collaborations have too many rules that limit her creativity. The most successful brand partnerships are the ones Smith drives herself, such as the interviews with career women she did with smartwater and Annie Leibovitz.
Working on the brand side, it’s easy to fixate on a singular vision of a client’s message. Smith underscored that inviting others into the process of sharing a brand’s perspective is an opportunity, not a risk. She encouraged brands to be open to her suggestions and to keep an open mind for what “success” means when working with influencers. Like the Internet itself, the role of writer and creator is constantly in flux, and that’s actually a good thing. For brands, every change means more possibilities for telling great stories.
Today is the greatest day to be alive. One of LaunchSquad’s founding partners, Jesse Odell, is famous for this phrase. When faced with uncertainty, it’s easy to become nostalgic for the good old days when it felt like times were easier, business was booming or the world made sense. But that mindset is a crutch. If you face difficulties with the belief that right now is the very best moment to be doing this work, you won’t be held back by past assumptions or dated ideals.
With these maxims in mind, we returned to our work with a renewed sense of commitment to the work we do, the companies we do it for and the people we do it with. If we truly live by the belief that today is the greatest day to be alive, it means the companies we’re working with right now are the most dynamic and innovative they’ve ever been. It means our teams are the brightest we’ve ever had, our ideas the most potent and our campaigns the most original. It means there are no good old days. The good old days are right now.