Content isn’t king, it’s a peasant: Why the c-word is a terrible label for creative work

There’s a lot of nonsense words thrown around in marketing. Rosanna Elliott argues that the term content falls into that category…

Bunch of content right here. Turnipy content.

Content. It’s everywhere. But here at The Means, we aren’t content to call our work content (yep someone actually paid me to write that). I know, I know, it seems like I take issue with everything these days, what with my very recent post on why we don’t like the s-word, but consider this:

  1. I definitely do, but that’s okay because pedantry is fun
  2. There is actually a really compelling case for scrutinising the way we’re using language

So content is clearly in our bad books. The question is why? I’ll answer that question with a question: ‘What is content?’

I’ll give you a picture break to let you think about it.

A visual representation of how I must sound so far

Ok, times up. What is content? If you said either:

A.) the things that are held or included in something

B.) the material dealt with in a speech, literary work, etc. as distinct from its form or style

Or

C.) information made available by a website or other electronic medium

Then congratulations, you’re a pro at googling the definitions of words. Sidenote: If you said that content is a warm fuzzy feeling, then….alright good one. Most importantly though hopefully you’ve noticed something.

That thing is that the word content is vague, impersonal, and indistinct.

 We don’t produce content like some sort of monstrous automated and soulless machine.

Would you want this thing writing your blog posts?

What we actually do is write articles, novels and poetry, devise and produce videos, plan events, design images, create marketing campaigns, and much more.

We put a lot into the things we create, and it’s sort of disheartening for the work we make to end up as this amorphous and throw away beast that is “content”. It’s like saying Mozart made noise.

When you come to us looking for material that will improve your brand communication, we won’t give you the sloppy promise of “content”, we’ll give you precisely what you want. Whether that’s a comprehensive social media programme, a series of blog posts, or a dynamic event.

If you have the project, we have the means to deliver it. We guarantee you’ll be content with the results. Get in touch at hello@themeans.rocks and tell us exactly what you want.

Events don’t have to be eventful: how to avoid your message getting lost in the crowd

Just because a lot of people show up to your event, it doesn’t mean it was a success. There are more important things to consider than getting people through the door…

The Invisible Persons Support Group had a record turnout this month

Festivals are fun; lights, music, thousands of people sharing an experience. But you’re not a rockstar (at least not yet), so why are you trying to fill that conference hall with people that are uninterested in your machine-learning cloud-based smoothie maker?

Don’t let your voice disappear in the rafters. It’s better to deliver your message to people that really want to listen in an environment that they’re comfortable in. Even if that means no RFID-blocking business cards. These people will become your best ambassadors and will be singing your praises for months to come.

When the atmosphere is this good they’d probably actually listen to a keynote

All anyone wanted to talk about last year was a guy named Alexander Hamilton and as far as i can tell he hasn’t done much since the 1800s. In all seriousness Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical masterpiece was everywhere, but mostly because practically no-one could get a ticket and the only thing that will make people talk about your event more than going to it, is not.

Scarcity drives interest, this has been proven time and time again with jewellery, technology and supercars. Why should an experience be any different?

Look at that face, he doesn’t even care they’re in the nosebleed seats

I’m not a student anymore, I don’t seek out large crowds of strangers to spend my weekends with. Instead I’ll invite a few friends over, have some drinks maybe even play a game or two.

Bottom line? I much prefer having a small group of people that I can interact with on a meaningful level, and events don’t have to be any different.

Just because a convention or a huge expensive event looks pretty and provides lots of fodder for your upcoming powerpoint presentation, doesn’t mean it was worth it.

You need think about what your audience will say about the brand. Will they even remember your name?

Having grand plans is all well and good but often these plans need to be scaled back at the last minute to avoid going over budget. At The Means Agency, we prefer to focus on making sure that the scale of an event is right for the intended audience. Tailor-made always fits better than off the shelf.

Let us be your tailors and create a bespoke event for you. Contact us at events@themeans.rocks. We’re sure we can get the fit just right!

Don’t call this a startup… Why we hate the s-word.

Startup culture can be a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t quite apply to us. Rosanna Elliott explains why we’ve come to realise that we’re something else entirely.

“To do: get an office so we can stop living in a coffee shop”

I get it. The term “startup” is appealing. It feels young, it feels ambitious. When you’re involved in a startup it feels like someone might make a movie about you someday. I’d imagine it would be something Cannes Festival appropriate, a business thriller that would grip you from start to finish. Don’t even try to pretend you haven’t fantasised about who you’d cast to play yourself and all of your colleagues, and of course all your choices were way more attractive than the real thing, that’s just how showbiz works!

If you enjoy referring to your new business a startup, then you go Glen Coco. We don’t feel like it fits us though.

Why? Because we aren’t really just starting out. Think of Cannes again; we aren’t like those under the radar actors, sick of playing “man in the cafe 1” or “woman waiting for a bus”. We aren’t waiting for our big break so much, we’ve seen our fair share of meaty roles. It’s more that we want to direct the movie now as well as acting in it.

We have quite a few years experience between the five of us

The Means Agency has, in total, 30 combined years of practice, one diploma, four degrees (six if you count Masters), over fifteen years experience of national and international press, over 10,000 articles under our belt, 5,000 hours of video recorded and a wealth of contacts across several industries including publishing, technology, and the music industry.

This is exactly wherein the problem lies, the term “startup” implies we’re starting from scratch. We aren’t. Instead we’re building on a pretty formidable foundation of industry experience.

We aren’t starting something, but we are being ambitious by taking a step in a new direction with our careers.

Yes, our agency is a new business but we aren’t new to the game.

You’ll never catch us pulling this face, we know exactly what we’re doing

There are some obvious advantages to flying the startup flag of course, the potential to attract investors, the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning on the job, the thrill of breaking new ground.We certainly aren’t here to put down startup culture. It can be a brilliant thing, and we strongly believe that the bright young things deserve all the success in the world.

All we’re suggesting is that while all startups are new, not all new businesses necessarily fit the startup stereotype.

We’ve been doing this for far too long to claim we’re newcomers to the industry.

If we were to do so it would be like Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Daisy Ridley, Eddie Redmayne, and Tom Holland forming a collective and calling it The New Actors Guild For Unknown Talent. We don’t mean to brag, it’s just that we have no intention of being disingenuous about the levels of experience in our team. This isn’t our first rodeo!

If you want us to take a starring role in delivering top quality creative work for your business, then drop us a message on hello@themeans.rocks. We can’t wait to show you what we can do.

What is punk rock? And can you run a punk rock agency? Maybe…

When punk is on every t-shirt and decades after it was the pulse of popular culture, what does it even mean? And can we make a business that channels that mentality while also being good for clients? The Means co-founder and CEO Mic Wright wonders…

Almost everyone owns a Ramones shirt now. You don’t have to have listened to the band. Even anarchist punk collective Crass’ logo has found its way onto mass produced high street t-shirts. The Fall’s ‘Touch Sensitive’ was the soundtrack for a Ford advert. “Are you a touch sensitive, buy a new Escort.”

But none of that matters. You can be as ‘pure’ as Fugazi or as commercially minded as Fall Out Boy and still come from the heritage, heart and headspace of punk rock. It’s a broad church with a delightfully desecrated altar. And for me, punk rock saved my life. Over and over.

Punk is more than a music. It’s a mentality. It’s not a mohican or a busted leather jacket. The clothes are just signifiers and sign posts.

The Cramps were as punk as The Talking Heads. Nirvana was as punk as The Replacements as punk as The Runaways – who were as manufactured a band as The Spice Girls. The way you get to a punk rock mindset doesn’t really matter. It’s how you apply it.

I believe in a punk rock mindset – build your own community, build your own opportunities, owe very few people anything, be willing to break the system if the system isn’t willing to help you.

Punk rock to me is Fugazi capping ticket prices for shows. Punk rock is Kurt Cobain decrying homophobia in the liner notes of a major label record. Punk rock to me is freedom.


Can a company be punk rock? I don’t know. I suppose. Discord Records, the company founded by Ian MacKaye and others, certainly is. You can sell things and maintain principles. It just isn’t easy.

Record labels have an easier time being punk. The same goes for photographer’s collectives or theatre groups. The Means has a foot in the world of music – we have a international DJ among our clients – but we’re also a little agency that works with big companies.

We have some rules:

No pharma, no Saudi Arabian firms, no contracts with the Department of Work and Pensions, no partnerships with the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph.

That might sound idiotic – surely we need the cash, right? But when we sell our souls, we won’t get them back.

Want to work with us? Get in touch:

@readthemeans | hello@themeans.rocks

Loose lips sink business relationships: Stop talking about clients in public

If you’re working with agencies that talk about your business in public, you’re running a big risk. And if your company is full of gossips, get them to read this…

The Means has just secured its first office. We’re all delighted to have a home for a partnership that’s only a few weeks old at this point.

And while the tea and coffee making facilities, meeting rooms and delightful reception staff are all a bonus, there’s one big reason we’re pleased:

We now have a home where we can talk about business and collaborate together properly.

When we move in – in early March – we’ll be able to build things for our clients with the level of confidentiality and care that they expect.

Right now, we use our own homes to do sensitive work and keep our public discussions extremely general.

Certainly, you’ll never see a member of The Means team discussing a project on a train or in a cafe.

Neither do we work on presentations or other sensitive documents in public spaces. It just makes sense to be that careful. You can never be sure who you’re sharing a table with on a train or sitting beside in Starbucks.

In fact, when I wrote about all the business intelligence I heard this morning in a Starbucks branch at a major London station, Twitter blew up with other stories of less than discrete discussions people have overheard on public transport, restaurants and cafes.


We don’t have too many rules at The Means but one of our watch-phrases will always be “Loose lips sink business relationships.” If your teams tend to be a little too chatty when they shouldn’t be, perhaps you should introduce them to the idea today.

And if you’re looking for a new creative agency that will make the blog posts, social strategy, video content, product plans or any other tricky task that needs words, pictures or moving images sing, contact us today on Twitter @ReadTheMeans or by email hello@themeans.rocks

Location, Location, Location! Three reasons why the quality of your business base really matters.

Rosanna Elliott explains why you can’t afford to cut corners in choosing your office space.

In a time where digital communication is almost limitless, you might think that a physical base for your business is no longer essential. You could probably save a lot of money if everyone just “worked from home”, right?

The first thing you should know about business, however, is that initial overheads aren’t everything. Acquiring a business base is an investment, but it’s one that can really pay off in terms of your team’s productivity, communication and satisfaction.

That being said, it’s only worth doing if you do it right. A bad base is potentially worse than no base at all. Here’s three reasons you need to make choosing a quality office space a priority.

1. Clients will judge you on it

Would you want to do business with a company who shows you around a mouldy office? Unless you have absolutely no standards, I’m guessing not.

You might think that an office space hosting actual mould (complete with the pervasive smell of decay) is an extreme example, but trust me on this — I’ve seen it. And for the small price of several hundreds of pounds a month in rent.

When you’re choosing an office space imagine giving a client a tour. I know different businesses have different expectations from their clients, but can you honestly say that a mouldy wall could ever be deemed appropriate for a “client facing” venture.

Unless you’re some sort of mould farmer than sells odor mould to misguided hipsters, then I’d say no.

2. You’re there a lot

You’re going to spend most of your life at work. I’m not here to debate the fairness or desirability of this fact (I mean, I totally am but not in blog posts for my place of work — which as places of work go, is actually pretty great) but I will say at the very least that you and your team deserve a pleasant office environment.

Of course, a big factor in this is tied to workplace culture and the people on your team. It’s not the only factor though. You can give yourself a much better chance of having a reasonable time at work if your physical surroundings are positive.

You’re probably best going for somewhere with enough space for people to not feel claustrophobic and with a good access to natural light. Unless you run a team of vampires, in which case you do you.

3. It reflects your goals

You can think of this one kind of like that snappy cliche “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. You should choose an office space that fits the business you want to be, within reason of course.

I’m not suggesting you look for somewhere with a built in heated pool and a cocktail bar because you’ve been watching too much Wolf of Wall Street. What I am saying is consider your goals and make sure the office space you choose reflects them. If you know you want to expand in the near future, look for a little extra space than you necessarily need right now.

Know that, unavoidably, the location, appearance, and facilities of your office will say something about your business. Make sure it’s saying something good.

We’ve found the perfect office space for The Means. Come and visit us to talk projects. Get in touch on hello@themeans.rocks.

How to start a rebellion — Did I say rebellion? I meant start up

Emily Jarvis, CMO at The Means explains that in some ways, our start up journey did feel an awful lot like Jedi’s fighting back the evil Empire

When Luke Skywalker met Han Solo at Chalmun’s Cantina on Tatooine, he was an outcast. A farm boy. Obi-Wan had his Jedi skills, Han Solo had “the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs”, and Chewbacca was…a fuzzball(?)

My point is, Luke was among friends who shared the same end-goal: To kick Darth Vader butt and stop the evil Empire. They weren’t in it for the same reasons, but that didn’t matter.

What’s the moral to this story, Emily?

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So I got made redundant despite doing a great job and even getting a promotion. I became an outcast. Unemployed.

In fact, the whole marketing team was made redundant on the same day. My boss and I were left to explain to members of our team how this could happen after only 2–3 months employment.

Mic had his contacts and years of journalism; Rosanna had her poetry and creativity; I had my writing, filming and mentoring; Connor had his design skills; and Niky a drive to create local events and experiences.

I was just like Luke Skywalker, I was among friends who shared the same end-goal: to start a creative agency and cut loose from the evil Empire of traditional businesses.

Reflecting on the past fortnight, I realised we all went through the same four phases of emotion, which I’m going to talk you through now.

Every start up should read this and know you’re not alone. Plus, figuratively speaking, you could turn that redundancy on its head and become one of the greatest Jedi — I mean start ups — the galaxy has ever known.

1. “I’m in”

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Turns out, the idea of a start up had long been on the agenda for one of our founding partners. From the moment we received our redundancy warning letters the one thing we knew is that we wanted to stay together. I’m very proud of the team for that.

Having run a 50–50 filmmaking partnership before, I knew that buy-in to the concept was the first phase of starting an agency that works. The second is making sure there are no skills shortages and the third is making people believe in us and what we do for a living.

Buy-in was strong, each one of us brought a different skill to the table and well, the third could only be achieved with time (and some mighty good branding).

2. The “let’s go to the Winchester and wait until this all blows over” stage

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Let it be no secret that working without a central hub or better yet an office is hard. With seven founding partners, finding the space and right environment for us to put our heads together was an interesting experience. It saw us gravitate towards many pubs, cafes, restaurants and other city locales that I never knew existed. All so that we could be together.

Partnership documents were laid out over drinks, and copious amounts of eggs benedict (thanks Louis’ Deli) and plans were coined over bowls of chicken wings (thanks Gonzos). We started to get to grips with the operational challenges, diving into a world of bankers, estate agents, lawyers, references, contracts, proposals, invoices, software, client meetings — and just a little bit of blogging, web design and branding on the side of course.

3. The “no seriously, what am I doing with my life?” moment

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This nomad lifestyle took its toll pretty quickly. Searching for an office that would come in on our budget was tougher than we thought. The phrase “working from home” suddenly became the norm. The WhatsApp group lit up with questions “What should i be doing? Can I help with anything? Is anyone meeting up today?” Tasks started to become sporadic because we needed to be together to get them finished.

There was an outpouring of frustration. Anyone who has ever been unemployed in their life will know the feeling where left over adrenaline leaves you in a frenzy of anger, misery and despair.

Imagine this when you’re going down the start up road. Instead of getting the little self confidence ‘kicks’ you feel when productivity jerks into gear and you start applying for jobs again, it’s all on you. Everything needs doing at once, there’s a lot to get your head around and you know it’ll be tough.

You have to put on a face. It’s sometimes necessary. Put on enough face and you convince yourself to get stronger, prouder and back to forme.

I’ll let you into a little secret. My friends call me Jolly Jarvo. It’s a long story. In short, it’s laden with irony as I come across professionally as a serious person who, when in full swing, often forgets to pause and laugh if someone cracks a joke. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but one that lets me keep face in times like these.

Although it’ll be tough, the rewards will be endless as you hold onto the reality that you’ve made this all happen.

4. “People, we have seized the means of production”

I’m pleased to say, we’ve found an office, there’s contracts pouring through the door, there’s branding in progress and long-term creative ideas are brewing.

Jolly Jarvo is returning. No, really. I can’t wait to share our new website with you. I’m serious.

Communication keeps the team together. It keeps everyone on the same page fighting for the same dream — the dream to work with dynamic individuals and create top quality content that makes us proud, but also delivers what you need.

Best of all we have a hard working team of partners who made it through the rebellion and used the force to get The Means off to a powerful beginning. Even if there were some teething problems…

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You could say we all had the means to make our plan happen.

If you believe in the force, then I want you to believe in us too.

Do-away with the cost and commitment of having an in-house creative team. The Means could be your ticket to the galaxy of content just waiting to be explored.

Say hello@themeans.rocks and we’ll get back to you. And no, it’s not a trap.

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‘Who stands to gain?’ The Means Agency, Marx and some good advice from… Vladimir Lenin?!

The Means Agency explicitly takes its name from the work of Marx and Engels: Our agency only exists because we have seized the means of production in the most basic way. But the influence of that radical thought goes further…

Cut loose from a traditional business with a CEO who owns the majority of shares, we have explicitly decided to create a partnership where our votes on the board are equal, regardless of our levels of personal investment. There are 7 board members, each with one vote.

Obviously, The Means is not a Communist collective. True Communism requires, in the words of Marx, the eradication of private property. All of us are too tied to our stuff to make that one fly. But, the principles of collective action, collective ownership and collective responsibility are being woven into the very essence of this company.

In 1913, Lenin wrote an article called ‘Who stands to gain?’ for the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Here’s how he opened it:

“There is a Latin tag cui prodest? meaning “who stands to gain?” When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: ‘Who stands to gain?’

It is not important who directly advocates a particular policy, since under the present noble system of capitalism any money-bag can always “hire”, buy or enlist any number of lawyers, writers and even parliamentary deputies, professors, parsons and the like to defend any views.

We live in an age of commerce, when the bourgeoisie have no scruples about trading in honour or conscience. There are also simpletons who out of stupidity or by force of habit defend views prevalent in certain bourgeois circles. Yes, indeed! In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.”

That question and the implications that spring from it is even more relevant today. In the year 2018, irony is currency, bitcoin – a block chain Ponzi scheme – is in the news, ‘gig’ economy has destroyed the concept of labour and a blatant, unrepentant and demagogical serial fraudster and sex offender is President of the United States.

When the media minimises these horrifying circumstances ask “Who stands to gain?”

When lying, scumbag politicians push Brexit despite overwhelming evidence that the vote to leave the EU will cripple the country, ask “Who stands to gain?”

When your bosses argue against unionisation or a basic benefits package in your workplace, ask ‘Who stands to gain?’

At The Means Agency, that’s a question we’re going to be asking every day: Who stands to gain?

You can gain from our expertise by emailing us to work together today: hello@themeans.rocks

The Rolling Stones or REM: What kind of business are you running?

Starting a business, your question should not be – are we The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? – but ‘Do we want to be The Rolling Stones or REM?’

The Stones, with Mick and Keith taking the lion’s share of the attention and the rest of the band keeping fairly quiet (okay, Ronnie Wood is NEVER quiet but the point still stands), is one model of forming a business. But you don’t want it.

You can have some rockstar leaders who write the tunes and make most of the money. And that will work for a while but, eventually, other people with songs to sing will start to feel aggrieved.

Build your company like REM – sharing the royalties evenly, allowing the personalities of the whole team to have space to breathe, not assuming that just a couple of people have the hit songs in them.

At The Means, we don’t actually want to be the Stones, REM or even The Beatles. We want to be Public Enemy. But more on that another time…

If your business has creative work that needs doing and you don’t want the cost or commitment of hiring an in-house team or expensive agency, The Means can help you.

We’ll lend you some brilliant brains in a package that suits your budget – whether it’s the equivalent of a delicious Lidl meat selection or a full-on buffet from Marks & Spencer. Get in touch: @ReadTheMeans