I spent a lot of time in the Boy Scouts, way back. I spend a lot of time leading Cub Scouts now. I've learned innumerable things from Scouting -- from the things you'd expect, like how to tie knots and pitch tents, to things you might not expect; like how to identify different Native American tribal sources of 18th and 19th Century bead and quill work. And while there are a lot of those things I've learned that have stuck with me, perhaps the thing that's stuck most completely is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America: Be Prepared.
When I wrote Use A Stick back in 2005, a lot of the stuff we take for granted in terms of avenues for marketing on the web were still blips on the radar, if that. (And, of course, I say "we take them for granted" meaning we who work with them every day -- most clients, and far too many agencies are still trying to stick their big toes into this whole web/social media/internet thing to see how uncomfortable it's going to make them.) I didn't know a lot in 2005, but I knew enough to know that agencies were no longer going to be able to rely on formula "products" to make a profit. Too many of them have been commoditized by technology. Too many of the formulas just aren't relevant. And applications of old formulas in new spaces simply doesn't work.
If there was a subtext to everything I wrote in Use A Stick, it was this: The changes you've seen, through the web, in the way people communicate -- aren't done. They may never be. So the single most important formula for success is to understand that formulas don't work. Change is rapid and constant, and change isn't going to go away.
Used to be, agencies sold knowledge, or skill, wrapped up in a defined product. I think now, to grow -- or heck, to survive -- agencies must sell what I'll call "Expertise." So what the heck is the difference? Knowledge is finite, and based on what is available to be known. Skill is an ability. In the old system, skill meant skill with defined craft -- as in: "They make really great ads." But expertise combines the two, and adds more. Expertise is the ability to acquire, decode, and predict knowledge, and use broader skills (the ability to adapt, the ability to create in broad terms rather than narrow channels, the ability to connect with people on their terms, in their spaces, and persuade them.) Now, of course, that's not the dictionary definition, but it's the definition I want to use here.
Expertise means you have a good idea of what can be done, what might be able to be done soon, and what probably should be done, given the particular situation. Expertise means you have a suite of abilities that make you prepared for whatever it is that's in front of you, and whatever it is that's coming. It means you're prepared for the stuff nobody expects.
Change isn't, by definition, good or bad. It's simply different. And in today's climate, it's a given. The only advice I can recommend is: Be Prepared.