INTRODUCING THE GUILD
Changes are afoot. On August 20, 2020, we pulled the lever and turned on The Guild. Over the past decade, Lauren Daughety and Tony Vann grew V&A from a small public relations firm based in Oklahoma City to a public relations and marketing agency providing an extended scope of services to clients across the country. Although our accomplishments were noteworthy and building our business year-after-year was satisfying, we knew in early 2019 there was a shift in the wind, and we needed to grab a hold.
Back in 2010, the vision for V&A was to become a premier public relations firm providing solid counsel, media relations and public outreach. The first five years, that was exactly what our firm did. However, as additional tools in strategic communications become available, we soon saw a change in both what our clients desired and what we were doing to increase the visibility of our clients’ brands. Instead of leading with public relations, we were following-up with it. Our PR firm was becoming a PR and marketing firm.
As we became more and more proficient in these new strategies and tactics, our new clients weren’t just pleased we offered digital and marketing, they demanded it. To stay competitive, members of our team began ingesting knowledge about marketing strategy, digital advertising tactics and new trends in social media strategy and tactics. We saw the tidal wave coming and were swimming as fast as we could, but still held tight to the shoreline of public relations.
Finally, at the end of 2018 and into the first days of 2019, the realization of our 10th anniversary began sinking in. Often, we encourage clients to take the year prior to a large anniversary to plan a year-long celebration the following year. Well, as clients go, we did that and prepared to unveil V&A 2020! However, during that process, some thorns began to emerge which we could not ignore.
The drumbeat started slow-and-low in January 2019. The 10th anniversary of V&A was a mere 364 days ahead and we needed to do something. During our planning for 2020 we did as most do, discussing badging, client reveals, events, gifts – whatever we wanted to do to celebrate this milestone, we needed to plan.
We soon started to realize when we created V&A in 2010, during the Great Recession, we hadn’t really even thought of 2020. Candidly, in December of 2010, we were trying to figure out if we could start and sustain a company for a year, not 10 of them. As we planned, we had three barriers which we could’ve ignored, but didn’t want to:
Scope of Services:
We started as a public relations firm. V&A began doing more marketing, so we tacked on marketing. When the business grew and the number of clients grew, we said yes to growth without looking at what our lanes of proficiency were. We are really good at a lot of services. We were ok with others and not so good at some but wanted to make the client happy. V&A needed to find a core offering and stick with it.
Continuity of Leadership:
The current Vann & Associates name came from the understanding that the principal of the two partners was more established and older with name recognition in Oklahoma City and often across the state. As time passed, the individual name became less important and the V&A brand become more known. However, as a corporate succession plan became more important as the agency prospered, there were little-to-no room to add the second principal’s name to the letterhead. Painfully obvious, the company would have to adopt a “version of” V&A or tackle this issue again in the future.
The original V&A branding was crafted thinking the red seal noted importance to communications. Specifically, reflecting back to correspondence written by nobles shared among others as statements of leadership, change and importance. Although still valid, the messages crafted are sent at the speed-of-light, not on horseback. In the competitive marketplace, the seal and V&A didn’t stand up. The company needed a name conveying power and stability, with a look and feel of a brand that was cutting edge, but approachable.
How do we even address these issues? We are a marketing firm trying to objectively examine our own brand. We joked it was like a brain surgeon doing self-surgery. So, we called in an expert! We engaged a colleague from Cincinnati, Ohio, who had a similar issue about five years ago. We were on similar paths as she and her agency were and we looked to her to come in and help.
In July 2019, Mimi Rasor of Rasor Marketing spent three days with us to discuss the three identified challenges. Prior to her visit, she also performed a competitive market analysis of the Oklahoma “creative agency” market. During her time with us, we identified what V&A was doing, what the company did well, what we did to “make our clients happy,” which we may or may not have been doing well, and what work product was not to our standards. She then interviewed all the members of our team and did a deep-dive into our client rosters, financials and vision for the future.
There were several important observations which came from this meeting, but the most pertinent were:
The Oklahoma City market was flooded with “creative agencies.” The number was comparable to a market like Los Angeles or Chicago based on a per-capita comparison.
There were a number of skill-sets our team offered which no other competitor offered.
The V&A brand was not going to expand with the company’s pivot points.
With these observations, our team went to work. Lauren and Tony ran through an exhausting list of names, colors, services and brands. They held internal discussions with staff and conducted two, blind online surveys and two in-person focus groups.
Finally, in early November 2019, the name was finally agreed upon – The Guild Agency, LLC or The Guild. A decision was made to form a new company and on November 6, 2019, The Guild Agency, LLC became an Oklahoma Limited Liability Company owned equally by Lauren Daughety and Tony Vann.
We crafted a new logo, brand and tagline and set to launch in Q2 of 2020! As we worked building the brand, discussing the transition with staff and setting dates, the world experienced a global pandemic and everything came to a halt. It was decided during the uncertain times that we needed to focus on our clients, stabilize the company as it stood and hold tight until we felt the climate was better to release the new brand.
A new date was set for August 20, 2020 and work began in earnest to launch. With teaser ads stating, “Skinny jeans rarely provide solace in the midst of turmoil” and “There are many ways to measure ROI, we prefer wins.” The Guild was introduced to the marketplace.
ON THE HORIZON
With the launch of our new brand, The Guild, we are certain the greater vision for this entity will carry us decades beyond where V&A failed. First, the succession plan which was a major issue has been solved. Secondly, all trends point toward utilizing strong marketing strategy with a mix of traditional and digital execution with a litany of tools to gather, sort and synthesize data to focus on consumer trends, increasing return on investment and understanding not only how consumers engage brands, but also how to change their patterns of engagement.
The Guild will focus on four core services:
Branding and design
Digital content (Social media, website design and e-mail marketing)
Within these four categories, we can now successfully provide current and future services such as content creation, media relations and design at a much higher level. Implemented within these four categories are tools we have dubbed as PSYCOM, or psychological communication tools. These tools are a mix of digital and traditional “listening devices” which we have fine-tuned over the past several years and feel is truly The Guild Factor which adds additional value to our services.
We will have much more to share in the coming weeks and months. Current clients will enjoy additional reporting tools and a client portal. The Guild is an exciting step not only us, but our current clients as well. We look forward to discussing this with you either in-person on via teleconference in the coming days.