Why it’s sometimes a good thing to shit yourself a little

by Jessica Becker

In eight weeks I’m upping sticks, saying goodbye to the big smoke and going to live in the bigger smoke. Manifest New York, I’m coming for you.

“OMG, that is like, so Sex and the City. Are you excited?”, asks everyone on hearing my news. They’re always met with the same, uneasy and unexpected response: “Hmmm… 75% excited and 25% absolutely shitting myself.”

I’ve been in London for eight years you see and I’ve made it my home. My friends, my boyfriend and my dog is here. I can cycle to the office in 20 minutes and I have so many stamped coffee loyalty cards I wont be paying for a latte for a good few months. Life is pretty alright in London. So why am I taking on New York and rocking the boat? The boat doesn’t even need rocking…

Manifest New York

Rock the bloody boat

We have a saying at Manifest:

“if it aint broke, break it.”

We’re an inquisitive bunch, always on the hunt for brilliant, bold and beautiful new things. It’s a mantra we apply not only to the work we do, but also the way we run the agency. “What would happen if we did it this way?” isn’t just a rhetorical question — it’s something we practice every single day. I look at Manifest and see all those who sail in her flourish as a result of the boat rocking. And this makes me think that, when I get over the absolute terror of leaving the known for the unknown, New York will totally be worth it. Because great things never came from within a comfort zone, watching the world go by.

Stick a finger up to the boundaries

At Manifest we recognise risk is necessary for progression. “Doing things differently”, may now be the norm, but we’re not just saying it for effect. We’re saying — and acting — because it’s what gets us up in the morning. We’re tired of the PR 101s. It’s not that they don’t get coverage — but they don’t always tell meaningful stories or add significance to brands. We want to be inspired and pushed in our jobs every single day to do this, and quite frankly, paying Z-listers to pose, building stuff on the Southbank and consumer research stories, just don’t get us hyped. So, we crush the boundaries of what’s creatively possible and do things that make others antsy, and us excited.

Manifest awards

Want an example? We recently brewed a truth serum beer for the Scottish brewer, Innis & Gunn, called Smoke & Mirrors. Using natural, truth-enhancing ingredients, whoever drank it would be unable to utter a lie. And who better to test it out on than a couple of the most famous fibbers — Donald Trump* and Hillary Clinton? It was only polite that we send each of them a bottle of the good stuff. Everyone we told about the story said it was too controversial and advised us against picking up the phone to the press. But we did it anyway. And sat back and watched the glorious coverage roll in.

Have the balls to try something different (and maybe even fail)

We’re not just breaking down the creative boundaries — we’re also shaking up the traditional agency model in more ways than one. We help our team take control of their own progression and build career plans based on their strengths and interests as opposed to the standard PR job titles. We now have an Insights Manager, Publicist and Chief Happiness Officer in the building. And clients love it too — we don’t resource our accounts based on levels, but instead, on skill-set and what the campaign actually requires.

We offer unlimited holiday — which many people think is crazy — but means we have less clashes and our team has the freedom to take holiday as and when they need it. Our success has nothing to do with how many hours they spend at their desk. In fact, we find this flexible approach results in healthier, happier and more creative employees.

Manifest New York

We’re completely email free internally, using Slack to work faster and smarter. And more importantly, means we actually talk to each other in the office.

None of the above have been easy to implement and all of them have made our Executive Committee question if we’re doing the right thing. But, we have the freedom (and the balls) to give it a go and see what happens. While everyone else is plain sailing, we’re constantly searching for what else we can do to not only rock the boat, but to make it capsize. And if we fuck up, we fuck up. But that’s part of the fun right?**

Bossman Alex Myers once said (and again and then again):

“A good idea sends a shiver down your spine. A great idea scares the shit out of you.”

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the idea of moving to New York sends a shiver down my spine. But the reality of packing my bag and starting a new life scares the shit out me. And that’s exactly why I’m doing it.

See you on the other side.

*Unfortunately no politicians were harmed in the making of this beer.
 **9 times out of 10 we don’t fuck up.