I started as the creative director for The Daily Beast content team, “BrandBeast," one year ago at an exciting time. The team was growing, and we were gaining recognition as a world-class creative content shop. I had worked hard to elevate the content team at Hill Holliday in my previous job, and was looking forward to building another amazing department.
But while BrandBeast functions like a small agency within a booming media company (20 million monthly uniques and counting), there were growing pains. The team was doubling in size, and I quickly recognized if we were going to grow and continue to be successful, we needed guidelines all members of the team, new and old, could easily understand and operate by. Much more than that, we needed to establish and define a new culture and get everyone on the same page about what we were working toward.
So where did we start? We created “BrandBeast Standards.” To begin, the Vice President of BrandBeast William Messmer and I sat down together (many times) and asked ourselves a bunch of tough questions: How do we contribute to the success of The Daily Beast? What matters to us, the leadership? What matters to the rest of the team? What are we here to do, immediately and in the long term? What do we want our messaging to convey? And ultimately, what are the team’s values?
Once we had a list of those answers, we distilled them into statements. Then we ran these by the team, iterated (there was one in particular the team vehemently disagreed with), and voila — out came a list of expectations we are all responsible for upholding. (For a more detailed explanation on how to create your own team standards, or “core values,” I recommend reading Chapter 7 in Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness.”)
Our standards will give you a little insight into how our team works. We’re happy to have you steal them or use our learnings to apply them to your own content team.
Quality: For us, a high standard is the only standard. We consistently deliver our best work.
We didn’t want our partners thinking we were just another media company willing to do their content farming. Our data showed that The Daily Beast audience was more sophisticated and wanted to spend more time on thoughtful pieces, not clickbait or quizzes. We wanted to do right by our audience and have that editorial translate into our content. And when we do this, we see big returns on interaction. Think about your audience first when it comes to creating your content. What can they expect from your brand and what will be of value to them?
Work from Your Gut: Own your work. Operate with intention.
We say around here that we work from an “informed gut.” That means that we look at data when it comes to everything we do, but we don’t let data dictate what we do. If we did, creativity would cease to exist. We also look at the data to iterate and learn from when it comes to performance. I don’t want to work in an industry where data is calling the shots; I hope you’ll join me in this one.
Service: We are in the service of clients, as well as other teams at The Daily Beast. Collaborate to deliver great work.
Media can get insanely busy and overwhelming. It’s important we don’t let the work — and, in turn, our clients — suffer because of that. We support each other and pitch in where needed to make sure we’re doing our very best, as well as collaborate with other teams to gain support and inspiration.
Pay Attention...to the details. The big stuff is important, but the little things can kill.
I’ll admit it — this one definitely came out of operational growing pains. It just became too much work, systems weren’t properly in place for it and balls got dropped. Issues would seem like little things, but the little things were adding up and bugging the hell out of me. We did put systems in place to catch mistakes, but we still wanted everyone to know this was important. Even if it feels like an obvious or small thing, if it’s important to your team, include it in your standards.
Efficiency + Urgency. Find ways to work smarter and faster. HUSTLE.
In media and content, everyone is trying to race to win. And there is always a crushing amount of work. We wanted our team to understand that, yes, we want you focused on creating great work, but we can’t be precious about it. Focus in on something, execute…and then move on.
Curiosity. Become world-class in your area. Strive to learn more and always look to improve.
This was particularly important to me. We're out to become the best content shop; we'll put ourselves against any other agency and media company. But we weren’t going to get better with a team that was interested in just clocking in and clocking out. I wanted a team fully engaged in our work and how it fits in the industry. I wanted them to bring their passions into their work, and learn about new things for us to tell stories about. I didn’t want the work to feel like a grind, but a place to grow and play in. We're always looking to improve to get there and we encourage that from every member of the team.
Raise Your Hand. This is not a solo sport. Be honest about your limitations, and don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
We didn’t want a team that felt helpless. As I’ve said, the work can be crushing. We wanted to avoid burnout and encourage teamwork. And while we know we have capable, world-class talent, we didn’t want them to think they couldn’t ask for help, or worse, that it would make them feel any less. So we put our messaging right in front of everyone: It’s OK to ask for help! Part of becoming a world-class content team is making mistakes and not going at it alone.
You're Responsible... for everything. And so are we.
I admit, this was stolen from the standards from my content team at Hill Holliday, but held true here. We all have our roles and responsibilities, but we expect everyone to feel a sense of ownership for everything in having this team win.