Talking Agile With Andrea Fryrear

SheSays sat down with Andrea Fryrear, President and Lead Trainer for AgileSherpas, to learn a little about her work with agile marketing and to get some great advice for SheSays members. Andrea will be introducing The Story of Content at our Holiday Party this Thursday, December 7th. We hope you can join us!

SheSays: Tell me about what you do and your career trajectory — how did you get to where you are now?

Andrea Fryrear: Like a lot of other people, I came to marketing in a round-about way. My first job was at a newspaper syndicate. I got put in charge of the website and had no idea what that meant or anything about digital marketing, but I learned by doing for several years. And then I ended up working at an SEO company out here when we moved and then took a couple years off and had kids. Then, content marketing became a thing, and it was a perfect fit for me. So, I did content marketing for a few years and discovered agile, and it’s been a nice marriage of various things.

I’m currently president and lead trainer for a company called Agile Sherpas. We do agile marketing transformations and coaching with teams, and we apply the principles of agile software development to marketing which takes a lot of different forms. Agile Sherpas has only been officially around since September, so it’s all still very new. Being able to create an environment in a marketing department where writers can write, and creative people can be creative and not be short-order cooks who are slaves to deadlines, makes me very happy.

I’d like to evangelize the practice of agile marketing and do marketing differently. Content is a big part of that and so being able to travel and speak about that, and help more and more teams transform would be great. And I’d love to start an event within the next five years kind of like Content Marketing World, and make it become a way that everybody works, this common-sense thing that we all do.

SS: What does your day-to-day look like at the moment? What’s the most exciting thing you’re currently working on?

AF: I travel a lot to visit clients and speak at events. Some weeks I’m on a plane or in front of a crowd somewhere which is fun, but it’s nice to have that balanced out by the times I get to work from home, writing for clients or working on my own website. The hard thing about being a solopreneur is that you have to deliver for your clients while also marketing yourself. So, I have to do things on social media, and I have to do email marketing. Thankfully I have a business partner who handles a lot of the billing and behind-the-scenes stuff. But I do have extremely different days. I’m either in my sweats all day cranking away at content and email or I’m traveling to conferences. But they do balance each other out, so it’s good.

We’re also doing some custom research at Agile Sherpas. We’re releasing a “state of agile marketing” survey early next year that I’m really excited about. We also have big brands who are coming on board with us in 2018. It’s exciting to see the business growing and have some big names who want to work with us, because we’re still very young.

SS: What advice do you have for women who want to do what you do?

AF: One of my biggest wins since I started going out on my own, and the thing I would have never thought was something I could do or should do, has been speaking — getting out in public and speaking, whether it’s at a Meetup or a conference. It’s opened so many doors for me and helped me make so many connections, and made me so much less afraid of just about anything. If I can get up on the stage and talk to 200 people and not throw up in front of them, then I’m sure I can do whatever that other thing is that I want to do. But I think a lot of women feel like they don’t know enough, or they’re not smart enough, or they’re not enough of a subject matter expert, or whatever it is. We have that kind of imposter syndrome going on in our heads. But, almost without exception, you know something that nobody else knows, and people want to hear that.

Start with smaller speaking events. I think that speaking an excellent way to build up your own expertise and build up your network, and gain clients, no matter what it is you do. When you get up on stage and talk like an expert, then people start saying you’re an expert, and they’ll want you to come and do for them what you just talked about. It’s been amazing, what it’s done for my business. And be sure to video it. Always video yourself, so you can use it when you want to take the next step up.

SS: What do you wish people and agencies knew most about your industry or your work?

AF: I wish people would look for more of a partner in content creation, instead of saying, “we want this number of blog posts and this number of emails, and this is the word count, and these are the subject lines.” It would be great to let a creative content person be a creative content person. Anyone can buy an inexpensive blog post, but not everybody can sit down and create something that others want to engage with. I really think that’s where the content industry is going — to the people who understand business objectives while also having the creative chops to finish it. That combination is very rare. And those people are going to be in very high demand.

As for agile marketing, I wish that everybody knew that it doesn’t just mean doing things faster, especially those at director and VP level. It’s a lot about prioritization, picking the right work at the right time. And I think it’s especially important for content teams to be given the right to say no to things, because we are so conditioned to say yes to everything — that is very draining for a creative person.

Transparency is another key thing for agile. Some people find that very scary, especially creative people. I’ve worked with a lot of creative teams who are very nervous about agile because estimating time is difficult. But, that estimation helps you how each person’s workflow impacts another’s on the team. And unless you have priorities and a visualized workflow, you end up with people sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

SS: What advice do you have for women in digital?

AF: I think that it’s easy for us to think small. I was this way for a long time. I thought I only needed to take on just enough work, get the easy clients, do the easy-to-finish jobs. But we can do a lot more than we think we can. It feels safer to go along to get along, instead of expanding your skillset or thinking outside the box or making that risky proposal. But those risks create opportunities and teach you things that you would have never known. Basically, do the thing that scares you. Take responsibility for your own professional education, development, and experience. There’s almost nothing you can’t learn by doing. Almost nobody has an official degree in this stuff. It’s just a matter of saying, “I did this. I set up this campaign. I increased our click-through rate. I wrote a blog post every day for a year.” That’s what people want to hear about. They want to know: can you actually sit down and do the work? And there’s only one way to prove that you can do it — to have already done it.

SS: What is your proudest accomplishment?

AF: I think I have two from the last year. I wrote a book that came out in March. It was super hard and really fun, and I’ll do it again but not right now. It’s been a very good reputation builder. The other one is that I gave my first keynote address last month. I was a paid speaker at an event for the first time, which has been a goal of mine. I’ve been speaking at conferences for almost two years, so getting to the point where I am paid to go is a big step for me. And I didn’t throw up — so that’s a win.

SS: What do you do when you’re not working?

AF: I have two kids, one is three and the other is six. I am also a classic type-A over-committer, so free time is a little foreign to me. I do volunteer marketing for the Growe Foundation in Boulder. They do organic gardens at schools. And I’m helping organize the Mile-High Agile Conference next year. I have also recently fallen in love with triathlons; I did my first one in August and now I’m addicted. I spend a lot of time training.

SS: What is the best part about your job/work?

AF: The best part for me is going to work with teams and feeling like I helped make their day-to-day work lives better. A couple of the teams that I’ve been with have just been in a really bad place — they’re stretched so thin, and everyone is busy and stressed out and unhappy. And then you can go in and offer changes that they can make right away, and you get to see what happens. It’s great to hear from them a week later, when things are so much better and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you write a blog article that helps people do their jobs better, you feel good about it, but you don’t often hear from people face-to-face about how you helped them. Having that opportunity has been really cool.