Old Town Media at Adobe MAX Conference

by | Nov 5, 2018 | Creative

Earlier this month, Old Town Media’s Chief Creative Officer, Vallene Kailburn, and Art Director, Katie Hutmacher, attended the annual Adobe MAX conference, hosted (bonus!) this year in Los Angeles. The trip proved to be an all-out adventure and let’s be honest, a designers dream, filled with creative inspiration, new technologies and the opportunity to try some of Adobe’s new and innovative products. With 14,000 creatives in one room, Adobe MAX offers an incredible learning environment filled with inspiration and entertainment.

From the start of Adobe MAX, Katie and Val enjoyed every moment and made the most of their trip to the West Coast. This year’s Los Angeles conference featured keynote speaker Ron Howard, plus a conversation between Questlove and Lily Singh, as well as highlights to new Adobe software and other projects such as Project Rush for online video, Project Aero’s augmented reality, and the all-new Adobe Photoshop for iPad.

Katie’s dedication to graphic design drove her workshop choices, and she found plenty of inspiration in attending this year’s Adobe MAX conference. Being her third trip to the conference after previous trips to San Diego and Las Vegas, she’s an Adobe MAX pro who knew how to properly balance work and fun. Katie focused on learning new processes and technologies that she could bring back to Fort Collins and implement with her designs for Old Town Media. One of her favorite labs was gaining additional skills with Adobe After Effects software while she also took time to enjoy podcaster Roman Mars’s presentation of 99% Invisible: Live.

This year was Val’s second trip to Adobe MAX after attending last year’s event in Las Vegas. For the 2018 conference, she was also accompanied by Old Town Media clients from Orthopedic Center of the Rockies and additionally had the pleasure of running into fellow MAX attendees from the Poudre Valley School District here in Colorado. In addition to learning about the new software being unveiled at the conference that she could use in her own designing, Val especially enjoyed Sneaks where Adobe engineers debuted demos of future Adobe projects.

While the conference was certainly a work trip, both Katie and Val had plenty of fun as well. Both attendees thoroughly enjoyed the MAX Bash 2018 which featured a performance from Grammy award-winning musician Beck. The trip also gave them a chance to flex their own creative muscles at the Adobe Create booth. After a 90 minute wait and only one practice jump, they were able to use the 24 cameras for one lasting shot of their visit to the ultimate creativity conference.

Adobe MAX will be returning to Los Angeles for their 2019 conference, and you can bet Old Town Media will be there to learn new skills, experience innovative technologies, and have plenty of fun again next year.

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Val in a taco costume

Core Values Make the Difference in Our Culture at OTM

At OTM, the idea that we are committed to our core values is practically an understatement. Our core values are deeply embedded in everything that we do - from the way that our team members interact with one other to how we approach the solutions we provide to our clients. As a leadership team, we truly strive to incorporate these principles into every aspect of what it means to work at OTM, and they make all the difference in how our company operates culturally.What are our core values? Curiosity: We ask questions to understand, learn and apply. Care: We genuinely give a shit, about our work and our teammates. Integrity: We do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Earn It: We work for it, we own it and then we celebrate it. Perseverance: We don't give up because if it were easy, anyone would do it.How did we create our core values? This list is actually our second attempt at crafting a set of core values to guide our company. As a 15-year-old agency, we haven't always known exactly who we were as a team and what kind of company we wanted to be.  Our first set of core values were created around 7 years ago, and while they were nice to have - they never felt quite like the company we wanted to be and that was demonstrated by how little they served to guide us in the day-to-day. We didn't consult them when we hired, we didn't use them to determine what to celebrate, and we certainly didn't terminate employees because of them.  As the founder of OTM, and someone who has worked with a large number of startups, I believe a business requires a certain level of organizational maturity before its leadership can truly express who they are through an accurate set of core values.  If you are a business owner or executive and your current set of core values do not feel right, give it some time and then try to define them again.  We actually defined our current core values through our work with the StratOp strategic operational planning process, facilitated by a client and friend of ours, the amazing Stacey Pearson with Spinnaker Strategy. We are in love with our core values as a company, and they represent each of our team members in such a foundational way that it has resulted in a culture that we also love. Our core values aren't just a bunch of punchy statements on a wall: they are the guideposts for how we hire, how we work together, and how we determine what clients to work with. How we use our core values in our hiring process We use all five core values in the interview questions that we ask our prospective teammates to see if they truly exhibit the OTM way. We do not straight out ask "Are you curious." Instead, we'll ask questions like "What's the last thing you really geeked out on?" or "What's the last book you read?" We'll ask different questions in different ways to really get a feel if the person is going to enjoy the culture at OTM. We do this for every role in addition to asking technical questions so we can weed out those who aren't going to be a cultural fit for us.How we use them in our everyday work life Celebrating with our core values Before COVID required what is now a hybrid-remote workplace, we were all working together in the OTM office in Fort Collins every day. We have a set of 4x6 cards placed on our core value wall that correspond with each core value, and our team is encouraged to hand these cards out to their team members who are going above and beyond in demonstrating these core values. So, for example, if someone went above and beyond to figure out a new tool or process, someone who that process benefits might write a personal thank you on a Curiosity or Earn It core value card and give it to that person.  At the end of the month we would tally up who received the most core value cards and they would get a gift card. Cut to COVID We wanted to keep our culture strong through the high stress and uncertainty of working from home indefinitely, so we did a little research and found a program called HeyTaco. This program integrates right in with Slack and allows you to give people taco emojis  and assign a core value to them. At the end of each month, we tally who received the most tacos for each core value and the 5 winners are announced in our monthly team meeting and awarded a gift card. I have even gone so far as to dress us like a taco:  Performance reviews based on our core values We do reviews/check-ins for each of our team members regularly and the leadership team every quarter at OTM. We follow the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and we use a program called Ninety to do all of our check-ins. In this system, every quarter, the team member evaluates themselves on how they feel they are exhibiting the core values and the managers do the same. This is a nice pulse check to really examine if there is anything that the individual needs to work on. Part of that check-in is called the People Analyzer and it evaluates the team member with a +, +/-, or a - on each of the core values and on Get It, Want It, has the Capacity to do it. + They exhibit the function most of the time +/- They exhibit the function some of the time - They do not exhibit the function most of the timeAn important note: if you see a (-) anywhere in the lineup, it's either the wrong person or the wrong seat, and your team's culture is undoubtedly feeling the incongruence. Get it: The person truly understands their role, the culture, the systems, the pace, and how the job comes together. Want it: The person genuinely likes the job. They understand the role, and they want to do it based on fair compensation and responsibility. Capacity: Having the time as well as the mental, physical, and emotional capacity to do a job well. Sometimes the job requires a certain level of intellect, skill, knowledge, and emotional intelligence and the person doesn't have that capacity. We've learned that core values make all the difference in how we operate as a team and as an organization, not to mention it's helped us find those perfect team members for OTM.
Long walk up steps

A Change Log: Tracking Success – A Monthly Status Report

We live in a fast-paced world. And with that comes change, both planned and unplanned. Tracking these changes is important to our business growth, but it's also important for us to remember what we've done right. This blog post will discuss how you can keep track of your success by utilizing a monthly status report or "changelog." Building a business from the ground up means you have to build your systems and processes from the ground up. As the organization matures and you begin iterating on existing processes, keeping track of the changes across an organization is virtually impossible. We have SOP's for just about everything in the company but we started to lose perspective on the changes in terms of the quantity, impact and timing. What I wanted was to get a snapshot of the changes in our organization. One afternoon I was reading a Change Log for a tool that we use trying to understand if an issue we'd been experiencing was fixed yet or had been changed. I thought this would be a simple and effective way to track high-level business changes. If software developers had used changelogs for decades to document their systems and platforms, why couldn't we do the same for a business? They're different but similar. I took the idea and started off in a core tool of ours, Notion. I set up an empty page and created a header with the Year-Month at the top. Underneath I created four more sub-headers, Team Changes, Client Changes, Operational Changes and Service Changes. That was it! Our first entry looked like this: 202109 -Team Changes: Dee joined our team as a storyteller, "XXXX" has started maternity leave. -Client Changes: No new clients. -Operational Changes: No operational changes. -Service Changes: Decided to pilot a shift in our subscription services in terms of project configuration, moving them to annual plans After some refinement (and copying over data from our leadership team report) we were able to backfill the first two months of our changelog. To be honest, I'd forgotten about some of the changes we've made over the last few months. It was nice to look back and realize the meaningful and purposeful change we've introduced over just the last 2 months. Moving forward, we will append snippets from our weekly team meetings to this changelog as we go. Since its really a changelog around how the company operates, we'll be sharing this with the full team and keeping it accessible to all within Notion.
Post-it note ideas

When Is It Time to Change Your Most Successful Plans

As a leader, I’ve learned that it is important to always be trying new things. If you are not constantly evolving and changing your approach, then someone else will come along and do it for you. However, this doesn’t mean that we should change everything at once. So how do you know when to change? It's typically easier to create new change but what about changing what was once "right"? In this blog post, I want to share a thought around revisiting your customer journey and KPI metrics and how leaders evaluate past decisions and know when they need to stop doing what has been successful for them and start looking into other ideas or approaches. The first element to focus on is your customer journey and how your customers are interacting with your products or services. Many aspects of your customer journey, defined or undefined, evolve over time for a variety of reasons. A primary driver of change would be technology, but who knows, maybe a pandemic will upend everything you've built. As external factors evolve consumer's lives, you must continually evaluate each stage of the customer journey (i.e.: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, Advocacy) is being experienced. Are the tools and tactics you're using inside of each stage still relevant to you AND your customer(s)? Take an hour out of your day and re-walked the customer journey and participated in the process yourself for a moment. Take a look back and 3-4 of your past leads/prospects and do some research around their experience with your organization as it relates to the customer journey. Once we've reviewed our customer journey and realigned it with the customer expectations, metrics are your next stop. We all have metrics and we're not going to cover in this post discerning between vanity and real metrics, but let's spend some time looking at the metrics as they relate to the customer journey. Each stage has metrics nowadays we can track everything from impressions on ads, to engagements within email newsletters, live chats on your website and thats just scratching the start of the customer journey. Now is the time to make sure your metrics are applicable and I'll give an example that we see happening a lot right now. For example, retail storefronts typically count "door-swings" as a KPI. This is a great measurement for the Consideration stage, but what happens when those numbers fall lower and lower but your sales are climbing up and up? Does it mean that you have a hot product? Or that you have targeted better customers? Or does it simply mean that the customers have done more evaluation (consideration) online (typically Awareness) and your customers are self-qualifying themselves? If you make an assumption that it's one of those three scenarios without analyzing the reality, you're making broad assumptions and doubling down on something that is unsubstantiated with data. If so, maybe you should consider adding live-chat functionality and pairing that with your door-swing KPI! So in closing, it is important to remember that you are always a student of your customer. If you're not constantly re-evaluating and learning more about how they interact with your business, then someone else will come along and change the game on you!
Key Result Areas

How to Create Accountability for Your Creative Team through Key Result Areas

What are Key Result Areas and why do they help create accountability for creative teams? Everyone on team OTM is constantly looking for ways to improve how we do things, from how we collaborate on big projects to how we communicate results to our clients, no one is excluded from the conversation about being 1% better every day.  However, with so many people contributing to and collaborating on projects, how does anyone know who is accountable for the outcomes of those projects?  In many companies, creative or not, accountability has become a bad word. It’s thrown around when things go wrong and it’s typically a finger-pointing game that can be detrimental to culture and team communication. No one wants to be blamed when things go wrong, but what about the benefits of accountability?  The leadership team at OTM believes that accountability can be a positive thing - when communicated clearly and celebrated often. As stated in the book, The OZ Principle: Getting Results Through Individual & Organizational Accountability, accountability is “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results—to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.”  So how do you set expectations when it comes to accountability for individual team members?  Introducing KRAs (Key Result Areas)  What is a KRA? KRAs are Key Result Areas (sometimes called competencies) that are used to define the outcomes that an individual team member is responsible for, providing clarity through a well-defined, measurable outcome that aligns what they do in their role with what the organization needs in order to be successful. KRA Quick Tips:  KRAs should be created for the role and not the individual A well defined KRA should show a team member how they can “win” in their role  A strong KRA should set clear expectations and a framework for feedback  How to Create a KRA  Creating a KRA can be tricky. KRAs should be broad, but clear - if they are too vague, they will cause confusion and ultimately allow for more ways to avoid accountability, but they should also not be so specific that you begin micromanaging how the team member does their job. 5 Steps to Creating a Clear KRA:  Observe all of the tasks that the role is completing or should complete Identify primary tasks that have the highest probability of return for the organization and then group these tasks into categories Take these groupings of tasks and assign outcomes to them (you may end up with 3-5 key outcomes for the role) Assign key metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to the outcome, answer the question “what are the results that will happen when I achieve this outcome?” Evaluate the KRA outcomes by asking yourself the following questions: Do they make sense? Do they set clear expectations? Do they provide a clear feedback loop? Auditing KRAs and Roles  When you work in an industry that is constantly changing like ours, it’s important to re-evaluate your team’s KRAs regularly. Depending on how often the needs of your organization change, we recommend auditing KRAs and roles bi-annually by having a conversation with your team member that is separate from the review cycle where you can work together to adjust the KRA based on any new outcomes that are needed from the role for the success of the business.  Performance Reviews and KRAs KRAs, if done correctly, should make your performance reviews easier because you have an agreed upon set of outcomes that you can measure against.  How we perform Performance Reviews at OTM:  First, we have our employees rate themselves on a scale of one to four (so that there are no neutral answers) for each of their KRA outcomes, our agency core values, their individual growth plans and how they are contributing to the agency’s strategic goals. Then, we schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss any discrepancies between our evaluation and their self-evaluation. Because the review is simply a review of the past quarter it should not take more than 15 minutes.  If a conversation needs more than 15 minutes, it is no longer part of the review and should be part of a performance coaching conversation.  Communicating KRAs Companywide  How does the team know what others are responsible for? We suggest having an accountability chart for your company that outlines who is responsible for what so there is no confusion.  At OTM, we follow EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and we use the Ninety EOS® Software to integrate our vision to our team's roles, placing the KRA outcomes into each of the accountability chart boxes so everyone can clearly see who is responsible for what.  “A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.” - Henry Evans Do you have questions about how to improve your organization’s People, Product or Profit? Reach out to OTM to see if we’d be a good fit to help you solve your organization’s problems.
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