Turns out, being a communications firm at the Cannes Lions Festival is a great way to stand out. In a festival dominated by ad and marketing folks, our employee engagement and public relations focus meant we were a fly on the wall of an opulent palace. However, beneath the extravagant trappings, deep issues were candidly addressed at this year’s festival.
What’s dawning on our advertising friends is that consumers are increasingly demanding to be treated authentically. They want genuine connections. They want technology to be used to build community, not just conduct transactions. It’s the historic difference between “paid” media approaches and seeking to engage an audience.
What struck me is that while other agencies are struggling to address this gap, we are there already. Whereas they start with what they want people to do and to believe, we begin with what people already are doing and thinking. Then we marry that with the mission of our clients. We put people at the center of everything we do – not transactions like other agencies.
The idea of making people a top priority is easy to explain and incredibly challenging to enact. It might mean increased risk – in productivity, confusion, profitability. But we believe the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Putting people first means a more engaged workforce. Putting people first means building and maintaining meaningful client relationships. These all help introduce flexibility into the business ecosystem, which leads to creativity.
In ecology, there’s something called an indicator species. It’s often small, sometimes completely invisible to the untrained eye. These small organisms tell scientists all they need to know about the health of a specific environment, be it a waterway or plot of earth. When these indicator species are absent, you see eyebrows furrow, concerned whispers exchanged. The presence of indicator species can tell you whether the environment is thriving, or in all too many cases, dying.
There’s a myriad of other variables scientists could use to evaluate the health of these ecosystems. But indicator species are often their go-to because they tell so many stories, encapsulate hundreds of variables, just by their presence.
In a similar way, companies large and small can diagnose their own health by focusing on key “indicator groups of people.” At KWI, for instance, we keep a pulse on employee engagement through weekly manager check-ins, extensive leadership engagement and regular feedback surveys. If we miss the mark with our employees, then our client service, marketing and bottom line will suffer.
Likewise, as we monitor the satisfaction of key clients, we know how we are doing with our own people, services and marketing.
The key, in all cases, is starting with the people and not the things we do.
One of the great ironies of our time is that as people are overwhelmed with more and more choices, they want to be known with greater clarity than ever before. Increasingly they can spot the robot-generated post and ignore it. People want real interaction, and that’s where we are. Cannes Lions’ recognition of this need was an encouraging sign that slowly but surely, our industry is getting back to being human.