The most important employee you probably don’t have

Around this time last year, my wife and I were planning to pull up stakes and head west. Things changed and we have since both replanted our feet firmly in Ottawa soil. While things were in flux, though, I interviewed for one of the most interesting (and potentially most rewarding) jobs I had ever heard of., an interactive agency based in Saskatoon, short-listed me for a brand new position – equal parts Quality Assurance (QA) guy and in-house writer. This post is mostly about the first part.

As it was explained to me, the job was a product of the company’s growth and commitment to client satisfaction. Their project managers / account execs were taking on more and more projects and it was getting harder and harder to devote the necessary time to proper QA. As I chatted with the CEO more, it became clear we were also both of the opinion that it is, frankly, hard for someone embedded in the project team to do a good job of QA in the first place. They are too familiar with what the content is supposed to say, or how the architecture is supposed to work – mistakes are easily glossed over.

Ever proof-read something you wrote over and over for hours, only to have the first reader find five more typos? Yea, it happens to the best of us.

Now, I didn’t get the job and wound up taking yet another in-house communications gig in Ottawa. All is good. But the more experience I get on the client side, the more I think that is way ahead of the curve on this.

In this job and in my previous one, I’ve been the recipient of dozens of proposals, a handful of reports, a few major projects and innumerable pieces of correspondence. On the balance, they were all professionally presented, well researched and competently delivered.

Yet almost every one has had something wrong with it. A typo. A broken link. An overlooked detail. An error of some sort that, while not fatal to the project, put a dent in the reputation of the agency in question.  They were little things but isn’t that what makes them so frustrating in the first place? And what really grates is that they are so obvious on the surface.

These mistakes are bound to happen during the course of a major project. Human nature. But there is no reason they should ever reach the client. An agency’s reputation is only as good as its work and poor attention to detail undermines that carefully crafted reputation just as much as lack of know-how does.

So agency types, let’s hear from you. Does your firm have a dedicated QA guy or gal? Why or why not?

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