What is Agile and how can it support your content marketing?

June 7th, 2018

The agile approach and content marketing

Software developers love Agile, engineers love Agile – but who knew that content creators could fall in love with it too? Jess Pike, head of content at Southerly, a Spoon company, explains what happened when the London team decided to go Agile

When forward-thinking account manager Miranda Joy suggested piloting an Agile approach at Southerly, ripples of hesitation were felt across the office. What was Agile exactly? Wasn’t it a project management methodology for left-brained coders, not right-brained creatives?

A quick lunch-and-learn with Miranda dispelled these misconceptions and quickly showed us how useful it could be in an agency environment. It turns out that Agile, designed to streamline workflow and improve productivity, can make a big difference whether your end product is a piece of prose or a high-tech gadget.

So what is Agile?

Agile centres around one-week ‘sprints’, and involves daily stand-ups (or sit-downs, in our case) where we discuss what’s in progress, what’s coming up, what’s blocked and – joyously – what’s done. A kick-off meeting on a Monday is followed by shorter daily catch-ups, where we reprioritise work and raise any issues; a Friday retrospective then enforces the continued improvement aspect of Agile, which runs through everything we do.

Why Agile works for content marketing

A month in and it’s clear that the Southerly team are out-and-proud Agile converts. Here’s why.

  1. Agile helps us be project-focused (as opposed to person-focused)

Not to sound cold or heartless, but as a commercially-minded agency, it’s important that we’re always operating in as client-focused a way as possible. This doesn’t mean that our internal team are at the bottom of the pecking order – it just means that we always keep client projects front and centre of mind. Agile helps us do that.

  1. Agile gives us a beautifully clear picture of everyone’s workloads

Great content marketing involves a whole host of people – from account managers, strategists, writers and editors to designers, illustrators and videographers. Agile helps us track a project and where along the production conveyer belt it’s sitting. Plus, the fact that it’s task-based means we can split projects up into their various components and give each job (and team member) the visibility it (they) deserve(s).

  1. Agile helps us keep on track – and be super-efficient

Every task on our Whiteboard of Dreams (yes, we’re that into it) has a time allocation, which is agreed upon by an account manager and creative. What this does is ensure all projects are staying within budget – something that unsurprisingly goes down awfully well with clients.

  1. Agile shows us what we’ve achieved on a daily and weekly basis

We’re a busy bunch here at Southerly and our weekly team retrospective gives us the chance to see exactly what’s been achieved over the last five days. But while we’re all for celebrating wins, this meeting – accompanied by obligatory sweet treats/snacks/wine – also gives us the chance to think about missed opportunities, improvements and what we might do differently in the weeks to come.

  1. Agile adds a sprinkling of science to the creative process

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that creatives are often seen as haphazard, fiery and process-adverse. Agile helps bring an element of rigour to the creative process. The ‘iteration’ element enables continuous improvement, while task visibility gives the wider business a better understanding of how long creative tasks take.

What have we learned?

No new process was ever introduced without a hiccup or two along the way. And in the spirit of continuous improvement, here’s what we’ve learned from our experience of going Agile, so far.

  • Clarify what Agile is and how it will benefit everyone from the word go: you’ll have a room full of advocates in no time. Having one Agile champion leading the charge (thanks Miranda!) also helps.
  • Encourage team feedback on how the process and whiteboard is working. You probably won’t get it right first time – and that’s okay. Agile’s all about iteration.
  • Take it seriously. Agile is an all-or-nothing approach, and as tempting as it may be, don’t miss your daily stand-up – someone might have something to say that’ll completely shift the team’s priority list.
  • Don’t only think about the short term. Yes, Agile’s all about weekly sprints, but your ‘Coming up’ column should give you a clear picture of what’s in the pipeline.

For a rapidly-growing agency with offices around the world, our Agile epiphany has come at exactly the right time. When it’s all too easy to communicate digitally, Agile gets us talking and enables a team-wide understanding of everything we’re working on. Lots of our Southerly clients are Agile converts too – but if you’re not, and you want to find out more about how our project management approach enhances our creative capability, please do get in touch.

Jess Pike

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