Luckily, no one saw the cursed baby doll that lives in our upstairs office closet (yes, it’s real).
Last Thursday we welcomed a smorgasbord of guests to the Top Hat headquarters for wining, dining and touring our space.
The event was the latest installment of the PRSA Pittsburgh Agency Tour Series, which coordinates open houses for area students and YPs in PR, marketing, branding and advertising.
The event included a talk by founder Ben Butler, a Q&A with the Top Hat team and a tour through the three floors of our humble Millvale office.
Talk, Tour & Tintypes
Ben talked about Top Hat, the industry and how to succeed (catch his main points below).
Top Hat has grown into a six-person agency in just a few short years, prompting some in-depth questions during the Q&A—
How did Top Hat get its business when “Top Hat” was just “Ben Butler?”
Right-fit clients, good selling and business-driving campaigns.
How does an agency manage a campaign like Will Work For Beer along with the work paying the bills?
Carefully, and with eyes only on the most high-impact wins possible.
“Strategic growth has been key to Top Hat’s health and success,” commented our Creative Director, Aaron Easler
Aaron was brought on about three years into Top Hat’s existence, and since then the team has taken on two additional designers and a content strategist.
What kind of projects and clients do we hope to bring on in coming years?
More restaurants would be awesome. More beer. Anything (in any industry) organized by good people seeking to make a compelling impact.
The Photo Studio
The tour headed to the photo studio, where Joe demonstrated the tintype process, a method used most widely in the late 1800s. Each tintype photo is shot on a sheet of black anodized aluminum using a large format camera.
The subject has to stay perfectly still for 12 seconds.
If you ever wondered why nobody smiles in pictures from that era — now you know.
Takeaways from Ben’s Talk
During his talk, Ben focused on the industry, its challenges, and what it takes to be successful in one of the most challenging businesses there is.
Here were his main points:
1. Have one skill you’re better at than anyone else.
Hone it and use it. There’s nothing wrong with being a generalist, but don’t just be a generalist — have a niche and you’ll always be valuable to an organization. Copywriting is a big one.
Come to events like this one. You never know who you’ll meet and what connections will come back to benefit you next week, a year from now, ten years from now.
3. Get really good at working with people.
Communication is everything.
You don’t need to be an extrovert to work in this industry — what’s important is being able to convey and sell ideas. Not to mention being able to negotiate when you don’t quite see eye-to-eye.
4. Have an opinion. Back it up.
Good creatives have opinions. The best creatives have opinions they can defend with research and logic like their lives depend on it.
5. Be tough as shit, and take nothing personally.
This is a really hard industry. Understand how the landscape affects the interactions you have in it.
Learn how to take criticism, and learn good crit from bad. Remember that everyone you talk to — every client, coworker, vendor and decision-maker — has a life, too, which may influence how they behave.
6. Be ready to work a lot.
Unfortunately, extra hours are the nature of the beast.
Don’t settle for a work environment that exploits you, but be prepared to work really damn hard.
7. Never give up.
Corny but true. If you love what you do and you believe you’re in the right industry, don’t let the shit going down in the trenches get to you. Stick with it, learn lessons. Failures are nothing compared to the big wins.
More Tours, More Top Hat
Keep your eyes peeled for more PRSA Pittsburgh agency tours in the coming months.
In the meantime, spy on us. All you have to do is check out our Work page.
Photos by the extraordinary Pamela Butler.