In Ryan’s Words – Love for WJ: The Team, The Culture, The Clients

February is a unique month: it has the least amount of days, it’s the only one that can change its length, and of course, it’s known for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Family Day. Family and affection are a huge part of the culture at this time of year, so it’s a perfect excuse for me to talk about some of the things I love about my work with William Joseph Communications.

WJ was my entrepreneurial dream. When I was younger, I just knew that one day, I would own an agency praised for its strategic approach, its creative capabilities, and its knack for laughing in the face of supposed limitations. And now here we are, 18 years in, and that dream has come true. WJ has earned its place among the top marketing torch bearers of western Canada, and we show no signs of slowing down.

 

Where I may have had a vision, my WJ family made it a reality. Every bit of WJ’s success comes down to the people I have worked with over the years, both inside the company and outside of it.

To start, I often can’t believe the quality of the team we have in-house. They are responsible for the incredible growth and the great results that we’ve had over the years. Each member brings a unique knowledge, perspective, and creative “flavour” to the agency, and when I see how hard they work, it inspires me to continue to get up and do the same. They’re a second family to me, and we come together to change the world, one client at a time. They’re entrepreneurial, they’re adaptable, they never settle for the status quo, and it seems like they’re always pushing the agency forward, enabling us to become a little better with every project.

 

But then the clients! I am thrilled by the variety of clients we work with. Everything from disease and vaccine research centres, to energy production companies, to IT support and non-profits…the list just goes on, and no two clients are ever the same. This variety keeps us on our toes and keeps our thinking fresh. And then afterward, when we see the success and the results of what we’ve accomplished together, it’s always so rewarding to know we played a part in that.

 

Finally, something else that I adore is how strongly we have grown over the years, and how we personally are constantly growing with it. WJ started in a basement with a single computer and a cell phone, so this expansion – now spread across four cities in two provinces, with nearly 30 employees – has been amazing to experience. It challenges me as a leader and an entrepreneur, and not only do I get to be a marketer, but I can embrace my role as a business owner. Going from that basement laptop to one of western Canada’s leading agencies has been a ride I wouldn’t trade for any other.

 

In the marketing world, if you don’t have a genuine passion for and love of the work you do every day, it’s going to show up in everything you touch. But on the flip side, when you can look around and see a team and a workplace that is genuinely engaged in what they do, and is consistently delivering a level of work that stands tall amongst any of the industry heavyweights – well, the dedication and admiration present in that is going to show up, too. It’s not hard to see which one shines through at WJ!

 

Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications

In Ryan’s Words: Why Video Strategy Matters

As the leader of a modern marketing agency, I have the opportunity to watch a lot of trends unfold over time. I still remember when my company, William Joseph Communications, began, and digital graphic design was just beginning to take off. File sharing required special software (and a lot more time to process). Myspace, YouTube, and Facebook not only hadn’t been created, they hadn’t even been conceived of yet.

But we all know how the story goes. The rise of the internet, and social media especially, has made it incredibly easy to share our stories and our created content with one another, and with every smartphone doubling as a camera, there has never been a greater amount of images and video to share in the first place. As of last year, YouTube alone accounted for more than one-third of all mobile internet traffic. Apps like Instagram Stories and TikTok have normalized bite-size video clips and continue to dominate viewer attention all around the world.

Clearly the market for video content is out there. But how does that affect us as business owners?

 

High Quality vs. High Definition

The demand for quality video content (and that doesn’t always mean expertly-lit, professionally-edited clips, but it helps) has grown steadily over the last decade. Easy to digest, engaging to watch, and ready to share, it shouldn’t be a surprise that video has come to drive the online landscape in a world where  attention spans are short and competition is fierce.

A survey for 2020 found that 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 95% of those are planning to maintain or increase their spending on it, seeing it as invaluable to their efforts. And good investments pay off; while a company like Disney might spend billions on content, they can expect to earn it back, as 88% of marketers reported a positive ROI on money they’ve put in. This statistic doesn’t even differentiate between low-budget, simple videos (like quick in-the-field updates) and highly produced, professional pieces. Boiled down, this means that choosing not to develop a video strategy will see you left behind, no matter how you slice it.

Some people get very caught up in the idea that every video has to be either quick and cheap or, on the flip side, heavily produced. Both types have their place, but a great strategy will use both. A poorly shot video can go viral if it’s so bad, it’s funny, but as a business you will want to ask yourself if you want the audience laughing at you. It’s good to be relatable, but it’s better to inspire your audience to dive deeper into your brand, while you’re connecting with them.

 

Misconceptions about Video Production

At WJ, we offer full video production capabilities, and we’ve been doing it for a long time. We often run into client misconceptions about making videos, some of which no doubt contribute to the hesitation clients may have about creating a full-blown strategy.

A lot of people think producing a video at an agency is overly expensive, and more costly than other strategies. More often than not, we find the opposite, because we have more resources (such as our own equipment, supplier deals, on-staff editors, etc.) and we can bundle them all for greater value. We have producers who make sure every shot counts on a set, and who can double up on efficiency by capturing interesting bonus content for future videos at the same time. As with any other strategy, we’re mindful of budgets, but we know that every dollar spent can easily be earned back with the ROI from an excellent end product.

A good video strategy isn’t just about handing us money and coming back a month later to see what we’ve made. There is a balance to be found between simple, amateur videos (think of how popular any cat is), and others that more beautifully showcase your brand and the way it appears to the world. We always want to work together, first and foremost, to identify what would be best for you, and invest your spend wisely to get the most efficient return. After all, we could make the greatest video on earth, but without the right strategic delivery plan, it could sit on a shelf for months, collecting dust while you wait for the “perfect opportunity”.

But the perfect time to develop that video strategy is now, because it’s going to be a cornerstone of marketing in the 2020s. Whether it’s livestreaming a product launch, animated infographics for a tradeshow, a perfectly-crafted recruitment video, or any one of the many other types of video formats, it will only elevate your brand in the process.

And if you need a bit of help…well, you know where to find me and my team.

 

Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications

In Ryan’s Words: What I Learned in 2019

It’s been an interesting year – one that seemed to leisurely stroll by while somehow, at the same time, flying past all of us. In my experience, it’s been a year of opposites: challenges and solutions; easy wins and hard losses; looking out further for opportunities, while closely examining what makes my company, William Joseph Communications, really work.

I think the theme of the year can be best summed up in one concept: change. We work in an industry where change defines everything, and it often moves at a speed that always threatens to leave us in the dust. It’s not always fun, and it’s usually not easy, but it’s going to happen anyway, so all we can do is accept it and work with it. New technology, new techniques, and a lot of learned lessons all just reinforce the point – we have to evolve and adapt to our new reality.

In order to change for the better – to really make it meaningful and work towards a goal – I took a look back at what 2019 taught me about running my business and how to do it better. There’s plenty to choose from, but here’s what really stands out to me about how I’ll reorganize going into 2020, in my pursuit of always doing a bit better than before.

 

1) Invest your time wisely.

As a business owner, my time is valuable. If I am not in one of my offices, I am always at different events, meeting people, helping keep my business in people’s minds. But no matter how much you work, it won’t make a difference if you’re not putting that time towards your goals. All the best CEOs I know have mastered this, and for good reason. Know your goals, get the right people on your team to help you use your time well, and invest those hours to the places it will be of most benefit. When you can do your best work, so can everyone else. And this ties in with the next two.

 

2) Focus, but don’t overthink.

My best focus at WJ comes when I truly see where we’re going, what markets we’re chasing, the strategies we’re developing, how we’re investing and planning for our future. That focus lets me shape a way forward, not just for clients, but for ourselves as well. And having that plan is critical: as the marketing world moves towards a digital landscape, you can be ready to change along with it and harness all the power it gives you.

 

3) Play.

That one word holds so much potential – it’s short, but so important. You only have so much time in the day, and if you’re constantly working with no outlet, you’ll burn out. Guaranteed. Granted, when your job is your passion, it’s easy to lose track of time and spend a lot of late nights working – but you have to balance it with your hobbies, with home, with a bit of an escape. You’ll find, more often than not, that you come back on Monday morning with a new perspective and a fresh approach.

 

4) Surround yourself with people who can lead you somewhere.

Do you want to work with a company that only keeps up – or one that takes you somewhere new? If we played it safe and only involved ourselves with companies who had the same capabilities as us (or below), we would never be challenged, pushed beyond our barriers, or given opportunities to truly grow. We don’t want to be stuck in the corner. After all, I’m a full-throttle kind of guy, leading a full-throttle company. My favourite people are the ones who are way ahead and make us catch up to them.

 

5) Nobody knows everything.

Even a jack of all trades would have trouble filling all the roles at a modern agency like WJ. With internal specialists – writers, editors, designers, strategists – and other external partners like lawyers and accountants, there is no shame in admitting you can’t do it all. In fact, there’s quite a lot to gain by trusting a team of experts who can help navigate a constantly-shifting landscape of best practices, technology, and legal requirements. Find good people and let them help you get where you need to go.

 

6) Diversification is the key to success.

It doesn’t really matter what the area is in your business – but if you focus on only one to the exclusion of the others, bad things will happen. The sooner you can recognize this, the better off you’ll be, because multiple product lines or services will help you manage tough economic times. But remember, consumers can sense inauthenticity a mile away – you can’t just say, “Oh, by the way, we also do Y in addition to X”. That’s not credible. If you’re diversifying, you have to reposition yourself to fully and authentically serve new markets. Like I said in point #2, planning is important – do it smart, and do it right.

 

7) Stop watching the news.

Seriously, this sounds impossible, but give it a try. The news is just as much about ratings and entertainment as it is the facts, so apocalyptic negativity tends to rise up to the top – and when it’s all you hear, you may not even bother getting out of bed some mornings. But there’s always business to be found. You might have to be more creative and innovative on how to find it, but it’s there (we’ve grown through recessions, so I know it’s there). A good add-on here is to make sure you surround yourself with positive problem-solvers instead of problem-finders – you wouldn’t believe the difference it makes.

 

8) The only constant is change.

There are many ways to reach a destination – one way is not necessarily easier or harder, it’s just different. And with the world, and our industry, changing at such an incredible rate, there are more ways than ever before to move forward. It seems like the only option you shouldn’t take is “the way we have always done it”, because that doesn’t get you anywhere new. I’ve been at the helm of WJ for more than 17 years, and I can tell you – the rate of change has been insane. Things that are common now didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. All you can do is be open to it – be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

9) Be bold, or go home.

Anyone can follow in someone else’s footsteps and say they did the same thing as the person who came before. But it takes leadership, skill, and a lot of guts to be the first one to go somewhere new. In marketing, if you’re not bold and ready to make your mark, I can guarantee you that someone else will be. They’ll step in and take your opportunities before you’ve even booked a meeting. This idea drives a lot of WJ’s philosophies, and it’s really what sets us apart.

 

So, what lessons can I take from 2019, and share with you? Besides the importance of change and time management, I also found the importance of focus – being strategic with that time and how it’s applied. I have an appreciation for clarity, and I’m constantly trying to understand how to get both my company and my clients where we’re all trying to go.

But underneath it all, keep the core alive. Your culture, your personality, your idiosyncrasies, your why. All of it can survive the change of everything else, if you’ve done your due diligence in figuring it out. No business will be perfect in every area, but if you instead try to make it the best that it can be – well, that will take you to places you never thought possible.

 

Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications

In Ryan’s Words: Harnessing the Power of Digital to Take Your Brand Global

Digital technology has changed the world of business, and it enables brands of all sizes to reach previously impossible markets in record time. Compared to even 10 years ago, the world has shrunk, and the entrepreneurial spirit has grown to fill the gap. Businesses are growing, experiencing setbacks, overcoming them, and succeeding.

The digital marketplace presents infinite opportunities to go global, connecting businesses with more people in faster, easier ways. But it also presents unique challenges, because it’s chaotic, fluid, and competitive for scarce attention. Using technologies to market your brand overseas doesn’t guarantee success – it requires time, dedication and a lot of research.

Based on my agency’s experience helping diverse clients develop their businesses abroad, I’ve summarized some key tips to leverage your online footprint to connect with audiences and take your brand global in 2020:

Know your story, and tell it well

Starbucks. Microsoft. Apple. These brands all had humble beginnings (and I can relate). Now, the story of how their companies started transcends geography – and helps boost sales.

Why? It’s because buying decisions are 20% logical and 80% emotional. Today’s world moves fast, and consumers are used to being inundated with information. People hear stats and facts, but they feel stories. Business Insider, after analyzing the top 10% of articles that get shared online, found that playing to specific types of emotion can boost a brand’s chances of ‘going viral’. When shared in the right way, stories can form deep, meaningful connections with customers. The digital marketplace allows us to tell our stories where our customers already are – online.

The challenge is saturation. Many companies are using technologies to reach similar audiences. Your story is critical to help you stand out.

The logical question is: what is your story? Chances are, if you’re looking to expand, you’ve got a solid idea of what it is. If not, consider this: your brand story is why your company exists. It’s why the business started at all, and why you get up every morning to do what you do. It’s who you want to be to each person whose life is influenced by your work. Think of your company’s values and the people who add to its narrative of growth and success to help build your story. Then, infuse that story authentically throughout everything you do online (and elsewhere).

Know your market

What works in one market may not in another. Our agency has offices in four western Canadian cities, and business talks with our clients differ greatly in each one (online initiatives included).

Your brand needs to transcend geography, but it also has to be relevant to your potential market. That means understanding the sensitivities in each, so your brand, and thus your products and/or services, are appropriate. Even spelling can make a difference.

Consider factors such as being perceived as a local company when entering a new country. If that’s a goal, you’ll want to use the local vernacular throughout all of your digital initiatives. Alternatively, if you want to emphasize that you’re an expanding Canadian company with Canadian values, that strategy will differ.

Do research into your market ahead of time, and ensure that everything you say has value.

Know your audience

Knowing your target audience, and how to genuinely connect with them, is one of the most important things to consider when entering a new market. The ‘who’ should shape everything you do and every message you share should be relevant, aligned, and informed about your audience. Find where they are online and what resonates most with them. For example, if you’re hiring oil and gas workers in the U.S., specific recruitment platforms and targeted ads may work best.

Know the rules

There are digital essentials that your business should know before launching across borders. Just in the digital realm alone, local data privacy laws like GDPR in the Eurozone, restrictions on imports/exports, and data storage practices can mean big changes in policy. In addition, marketing materials, such as your website, brochures, and social media, should be translated by native speakers to ensure a more seamless transition.

Know you’re set up for success

For success in multiple countries, you must understand each local culture and network with people who can introduce you to the right opportunities.

People buy from people they like and trust – and building that trust in different markets is key. For example, digital marketing can be extremely effective in many locations, but word-of-mouth may be better in smaller communities, meaning you’ll need on-the-ground presence to supplement your initiatives. And who knows the locals better than the locals? Hire people from areas you’re targeting to fully embrace the culture and its nuances.

To develop a strong team, properly utilize digital tools that get share communications and workloads across several time zones. Consider whether you will need different servers or separate user accounts in each region. Create a lot of internal documentation, and make it available in a collaborative software suite like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Office 365.

Also, as important as your story is, remove emotional language and potential miscommunications from all international documents, or at least have a local team review it first.

The Internet is a great equalizer that can take your brand into a global market, but there are additional complexities that require the right team behind you – IT gurus, lawyers, business consultants and digital experts – to get you where you want to go. The above tips are great starting points to help you harness the power of the digital world and grow your business beyond borders. With the right research and growth strategy, there’s no telling where technology might take you.

 

Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications