One of the reasons I founded Augur is because I believe too many agencies take really talented people and completely waste their time.

They squeeze them dry on hopeless, demanding clients, shackled to ancient inefficient processes and force them to crawl across coals just to be rewarded fairly.

We can do better.

Augur is growing and we are looking for the people who will become new cornerstones of what we build.

We believe the people who make agencies thrive are the hard workers that short-circuit bureaucracy and prioritise ruthlessly to make things that matter happen.

We don’t believe everyone has to be a jack-of-all-trades. We believe there is one core unit of success in this business: getting shit done. If you get that right, you can involve your specialism alongside it, whether that’s data, creating material, delighting clients, or anything else.

Benefits of working at Augur include:

  • Unlimited R&R days
  • Quarterly bonus scheme
  • Company iPhone and MacBook
  • Gym contribution
  • Mobile working kit
  • Headspace
  • “virtual share” scheme — the longer you are here, the more you benefit.

Here’s what we’re looking for — but, if these ideas resonate with you, we should talk anyway, regardless of everything below.

Email augur+jobs@augur.co.uk.

Strategists

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This is the primary unit of Augur. Our Strategists make things happen.

If you have a few years of experience and are looking for an environment where everything is designed around delivering strategy, measuring it effectively and iterating on it for clients, this is for you.

It includes:

  • Campaign management and execution
  • Campaign iteration: suggesting strategic, creative campaigns that grow the business
  • Development of skills inc. attention to detail and refining systems
  • Market awareness, including new channels and industry trends

This is a sketch. If you think it sounds interesting, fill in the blanks for us by emailing augur+jobs@augur.co.uk and let’s have a coffee to improve it together.

Incubation and Acceleration

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The future of Augur will be built on finding fresh, raw talent that we can nurture and train before other agencies get their grubby mitts on them.

The focus of our Incubation programme is similar to the startup world: We invite intern-level individuals to pitch us an idea for a project to work on across 3 – 6 months. We will then commission the best ideas, and support them to achieve it, while they learn about how we work.

The project should relate roughly to areas where our interests overlap — for example:

  • Delving into Google Analytics, measurement and evaluation in excruciating detail
  • Writing every single day, including regular features ideas that will help them learn about our industry
  • A video project that gets under the skin of our clients’ challenges and produces an episode a week

They will have to justify this endeavour against their wages, building in a mindset that is aware of the value of work, against the effort put in.

If they thrive in this unique opportunity, we will move their project into Acceleration, providing more resources or learning from it to integrate it into Augur’s processes.

This project is an experiment, and will be driven by the success of the first participants.

To take part, contact augur+jobs@augur.co.uk and tell us how you would use the time.

Like many, I ended up in tech PR through ignorance. When I showed up for my first interview, I didn’t know what PR was (something like advertising?) and I didn’t know what this “press release” was that I had 30 minutes to write.

But something must have gone right, because not long after that I found myself nestled in front of a tidy desk for my first day at work — still with no idea what PR was.

The good news was, with social and digital flooding into the industry, it turned out neither did anyone else. I found myself arriving to an industry half in crisis because they could see the old ways were dying and half in blissful ignorance as the rug slid out from under them.

What I also found was that the world had tilted toward the internet I had grown up on. As a precocious youth with a father who worked in tech, I’d wasted hours on forums and newsgroups, totally immersed in the original social web.

So when introduced to Twitter, I still may have not known what a press release was — but I knew this was a language I could speak.

I quickly became the cliched Account Exec evangelising the latest thing: Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google+ (and even a few non-Google projects) — I was the man taking them all seriously. 

I’ve since come to understand this is from the same instinct that makes me sit in the front row at standup shows: I want to try and experience the thing first, by myself, before I let others influence my view.

But as I watched platform after platform collapse, or evolve in disappointing ways, I also learned another significant lesson. From the latest to the ancient, some things that don’t change. Ultimately, whatever the means, people have the same drives, instincts, fears and desires they have had for thousands of years.

And so, a crucial lesson of my career has been: write strategy that optimises for the things that do not change.

This means things like:

  • People trust other people, not brands.
  • They especially trust people like them.
  • They are all trying to achieve something — and if you help them, they may be grateful.
  • Some people just want to be heard (think about complaints on social media.)

The principles of marketing aren’t really changed by developments in technology or new channels — It’s just our ability to fulfill them that does.

People became effective at broadcasting messages and not listening to their customer because really there was no simpler scalable route for some time.

PRs became effective at relying on journalists and publications to help spread their story, because there was no other channel. 

But that’s just not true anymore.

By focusing on the higher, strategic level, by not saying “we’re going to do a social media strategy now” or, god forbid, “a Twitter (or Mastadon) strategy”, we can achieve more.

So when reviewing your strategy, it’s worth asking: have you found a way to appeal to the human habits that stay the same, or just a way to tweak the tech and algorithms to produce a short term result?

I know which I’d rather work on.

We like to write.

Recently inspired by an example from Ricochet, I put together some helpful tips for how companies can start telling their story pre-Series A.

Like almost everything in early startup days, you have to spend your energy on things that will create a greater than proportionate result. So don’t embark on a complex elaborate editorial strategy if nobody on the team enjoys writing (or is quick at it.)

Perhaps the previous career history of your team means you have access to a lot of people like your target customer? Consider a podcast interview series that takes advantage of those relationships. An iPhone with Anchor, a couple of lavalier mics and you’re away.

You sit at a table. The top has been carved from a solid but elegant material, with a marble sheen and a cold smooth touch. It reminds you of a shell you found once as a child on a beach on a family holiday. It makes you feel something you haven’t felt in years.

You put your coffee on the table. The whole structure immediately keels over. As you regretfully watch your latte sluice the cold ground, you realise the pretty table only had two flimsy legs. And that’s not enough to deal with the real world around it, notably gravity.

It looked like a table. And it looked really beautiful. It actually pushed some buttons deep down that you couldn’t quite explain, but it felt right.

And yet, ultimately, it wasn’t a table. It wasn’t built right, despite millennia of table-building that came before it.

This is the feeling I get when I look at a lot of branding and messaging.

Just as the construction of your table needs to obey reality, the construction of your story must host a consistent and robust idea at its core. It needs to be reinforcing, not contradictory.

If your “vision” suggests one thing, but your “mission” doesn’t logically lead to it, that’s a broken table.

If you use a metaphor in your tagline that revolves around DNA, but your mission evokes a different metaphor from engineering, that’s a broken table.

If you invent a new descriptor for your category, then put it at the crux of the metaphor in your messaging, that’s an upside down table. A new idea is most convincing and easily understood if you orient it in a map of traditional ones.

None of these work — not for subjective reasons, but for cognitive ones. The way you build ideas matters. It has a direct effect on how easily they can be remembered, associated to concepts you desire, and shared.

The way we read meaning

Our brains are a constellation of memories and ideas. When you read a sentence, the only way to cognitively draw any meaning is for the brain to reference all its previous associations and feelings about each word.

You read the sentence: “I ran”, and your brain sweeps together its memories you have of running.

If you’re a marathon runner, one of those serious Lycra-packed over-quadded lunatics who squeezes in rich slugs of glucose every 200 steps, it will hold different meaning to those who bought their last pair of running shoes before the Millennium.

Now, as you continue to read the sentence, your brain continues this process.

 “I ran”

….

“him over”.

Your brain is used to a sentence continuing with the most common associations, the nearest neighbours and strongest links. Instead, it swerved into a different and dissonant possibility, in this case dragging you toward an extreme: tragedy.

(Sidenote, tragedy and comedy, often lumped together with the smiling and crying masks in theatre, revolve on the same dynamic. In comedy, you face a twist but are rewarded with relief because it’s not really happening. In tragedy, you have to reconcile the twist and accept the new, unexpected reality.)

This swerve is why stories can feel surprising and shocking and unnerve us so effectively. Equally, if you don’t swerve and instead continue to the cliche, it’s why they can be numbing.

Getting the balance right, or using each tool as and when you need them, is harder than it sounds — but we all have an instinct in our brain for it.

When meaning is missing

People have a remarkable capacity to react to things if they resemble a familiar form, even if the core is missing. For example, if a standup tells a joke, in a comedy club, to a warmed up audience, everything in the context means you will likely at least give a small chuckle. Because that’s the expected behaviour in the context.

This is the same instinct that makes certain brand, messaging and pitch work sounds like it’s the real deal, when it’s hollow at its core. It sounds like a pitch. So it must be a pitch.

However, if the idea isn’t build properly, when they then look back to share what they have heard, or they continue with their life and encounter a situation that is supposed to be directly related or connected to that story, it won’t be as effectively situated or accessible in their mind.

There is something about a consistent metaphor, connected to the right conceptual neighbours that makes it more memorable and more accessible to your audience, and therefore more valuable to your business.

And further than that, if your central mission, or the story about your business, isn’t robust, your actual culture and potential will be limited.

Ideas are the reality of your mind

This isn’t subjective. Meaning is substance, and the signal that should inform all the material you produce and harness to reach people, both inside and outside your business.

Scrutinise the idea behind your messaging and make sure it’s more than the sum of its parts. Again, this isn’t subjective. It’s like building anything — the pieces either join together consistently to create something robust and functional, or they are unrelated, disconnected, and will collapse with ease.

Here are a number of ways to be sure your shiny new branding work isn’t sabotaging your ambition:

1. Look for the metaphors. Anything in the branding which draws on the meaning of real world concepts (chemistry, engineering, family) should be consistent throughout.

2. Don’t be beholden to structure for the sake of it. If you have a system that hosts Mission, Vision and Purpose, but actually one in particular is doing all the hard work, simplify. Don’t allow the others to dilute what really seems to matter.

3. Remove empty signifiers. If it says something anyone else could say, ditch it. If your brand value is “trust”, ditch it. Again, these will dilute the things that really matter and make you stand out. If you really want to include the generic stuff, maybe put it in a “declaration” or something else that allows you to colour it with more specifics and character. But if you create generic values, you will become a generic business.

4. Don’t let your advisors drown you in Kool-Aid. If you’re paying someone a lot of moolah for the work, they are going to sell you hard on it. They will equally be ready to prepare and integrate feedback from your thoughts, that might seem humble — but be under no illusions, they have a mission to secure your belief in the big idea. Because with this kind of work, often there’s little else there.

5. Meaning lives throughout your business, but the ultimate editor must be clear. The institutional knowledge and culture of your business can only be found by tracking it bottom up. Sometimes the best ideas surface this way. You should always start by polling for hidden gems like this — and gather feedback along the way. But be clear that leadership is equally about then making a choice and being able to describe why it’s the right one. The timings of this is not always clear, but is crucial to avoid resentment by making sure you aren’t “coming down from the mountain” to tell everyone what they believe in.

For all of the above, Augur tends to focus on one area where brand and meaning all collide nicely: the pitch.

If you can explain from a cold start what your problem is, why this solution is interesting and how that helps the world, that gets you a long long way.

The art of “brand” in this, is often how you do it and where you place the focus. It is brand as verb, as the implicit that comes through what you are actually doing, not how you want to make people see you.

At the end of the day, that’s always what will define you most.