Kelly Campbell’s been in the agency game for a while now, and during that time she has constantly infused it with a fresh perspective. After 14 years of running her own New York digital agency, she started a consultancy, where she brings her experience in entrepreneurship, branding, UX design, and digital marketing among others, to help established agencies transform and grow.
Kelly’s uniquely holistic approach to organizational transformation accounts for even the emotional journey that agency ownership entails. Known for her comprehensive 5 P’s methodology, she is deeply committed to building sustainable solutions that account for even the emotional journey. She also dedicates a good chunk of her efforts to working with non-profits, particularly environmental organizations.
We’re delighted to have the chance to pick Kelly’s brain on this installment of Agency Gurus. Join us as she candidly talks about the 5 P’s approach, developing an empathetic response to the pandemic, imposter syndrome, and more.
Cloudways: You were a digital agency owner with a distaste for “corporate America” for 15 years. During that time, you focused on non-profits and foundations, before deciding to step into the world of consultancy. What prompted the change?
Kelly: My cause marketing agency was in the process of acquisition by a larger technology firm, so I needed to determine what type of work would align with my passion, expertise, and lifestyle.
Cloudways: You have quite a humanist approach to organizational transformation; of the 5 P’s you focus on (purpose, people, positioning, pipeline, and profitability), profitability comes last. Do you find it is difficult to convince agency owners of this priority lineup?
Kelly: The 5 P’s (purpose, positioning, people, pipeline, and profitability) is the framework by which I consult agency leaders. Purpose comes first because if the leader is unclear, he or she cannot be a good steward to their people. I don’t find it difficult to convince owners that supporting their team members makes a stronger business.
Cloudways: Can you describe this 5 P’s approach for our readers? What are the core basics that agencies should keep in mind?
Kelly: Purpose is about answering the bigger questions: do you know who you are, why you’re running your firm, what you want out of life, and how to get there? People refer to your culture, teamwork dynamic, operational efficiencies, and communication.
Cloudways: What would you say are the biggest challenges digital agencies face when catering to non-profit organizations?
Kelly: Most non-profits are short-staffed and have little in-house knowledge of digital marketing, and because they must get buy-in from their boards for larger investments, budgets are typically lower than what is required for effective marketing.
Cloudways: As a digital agency owner and a consultant, you’ve worked with clients of all sizes from Facebook to new agencies. What’s the common factor in your client management approach to these?
Kelly: Deep listening. By understanding what is being said as much as what’s going unsaid about an organization’s challenges, the root issues can be named, surfaced and remediated. When clients feel seen, heard and understood, trust is developed—and that is the commonality here because no one actually works with “clients”; we all work with “humans”.
Cloudways: On The Verblio Show, you spoke about how the triple impact of work, health, and emotion need to be accounted for in order for agencies to respond to the pandemic. What steps do you recommend agencies take to develop an empathetic plan of action for the crisis?
Kelly: Great question! The triple impact of work-from-home, health concerns and emotional upheaval mean that every person has experienced an unprecedented level of stress, anxiety and fear in the last five months. That lives in the body. So, agency leaders who have responded empathetically to support their teams by implementing consistent communications, allowing flexible hours and PTO, and creating a safe container for employees to be vulnerable, connect and share about their personal lives, etc. are those who are seeing the results of stronger, more collaborative teams.
Cloudways: Given that agency management has shifted so drastically in 2020, what team collaboration tools and techniques should agencies adapt to the new world?
Kelly: Every agency is different, but anything that fosters ease of collaboration, can be accessed by all teams working remotely, is cost-effective, and integrates with other necessary software would be the priority criteria. From a technique or tactic standpoint, I also recommend 15-20 minute daily stand-ups for all types of agencies. (They’re not just for agile development shops!)
Cloudways: As an SEO specialist, you’ve recognized how it can be tricky to straddle the line between best SEO and UX practices, and unfettered creativity and good design. How do agencies optimally balance the two? What mistakes do you find are common if they over-prioritize one over the other?
Kelly: Most agencies don’t prioritize SEO because the best practices can work against a sophisticated aesthetic. What I see most is image-heavy website design with little to no copy and the majority of agency’s own sites (or the ones they design / develop for clients) without proper Page Titles and Meta Descriptions—which are really the prospects’ first impression of the brand or organization on the Google search engines results pages (SERPs).
Cloudways: You’ve noted the effects of imposter syndrome on women in particular, as well as your own response to it in the form of long emails that were part of your “…, need to prove something, over-explain, give more back story than [was] needed.” What did you do to overcome that nagging feeling and rise above the self-doubt to professional success?
Kelly: Beautiful question, thank you. I did some inner work, self-development if you will, to understand from where that behavior stemmed. My need to ensure that my clients felt that I was competent was a deep-rooted issue that had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with the feeling that I needed to earn love as a child. The more perfect I could be in all aspects of my life—academically, athletically, creatively, etc.—the better I thought my chances were at being accepted by my biological mother. Once you realize the “why” behind a behavior, you cannot unknow it. But you can choose to change it, so I made self-worth a priority and began to let go of the false narrative that I needed to prove, perfect, or power through.
Cloudways: You’ve been outspoken about environmental issues throughout your career. How would you suggest digital agencies become more environmentally sustainable in their outlook and processes?
Kelly: Environmental consciousness is just that, a matter of consciousness. We can all do our part to treat our collective home the way we should have been all along. In-office recycling is a start, but it should go well beyond that to deciding what we need in our offices—and if there are materials that would be more eco-friendly, or if we can choose upcycling (repurposing) instead. Digital storage reduces the need to use trees for paper, but are we supporting companies that use wind and water energy to power those machines? Remote work keeps unnecessary cars of the road, and for those agencies that slowly begin to re-enter office spaces, biking and carpooling might be encouraged. My hope is that as we have all come to realize the importance of nature during COVID, we completely rethink everything we do, buy, throw out, and support.
Cloudways: Who would you pick for us to interview next for the series?
Kelly: I would interview Michael Berean of Grace Innovation and Gravidy.co.
Cloudways: And lastly, have you ever been mistaken for Kelly Campbell, Hulu President?
Kelly: Actually, I have! When she recently took over the Presidency, I had several people reach out to congratulate me. Hahaha!
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Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!