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Five Questions for Citizen Agent Tara Hunt

Sometime One Degree Contributor Tara ‘Miss Rogue’ Hunt doesn’t like to play by the rules. She started her career over seven years ago as the first-ever online marketing position in-house at a junior oil and gas firm. Soon, she decided to start her own company, Rogue Strategies.
Last summer, Tara moved to California to become the marketing director at “”:
More recently, Tara joined ranks with Chris Messina and Ben Metcalfe to form Citizen Agency, a consultancy that specifically helps bootstrapped companies and startups connect with their communities. Tara continues to blog at HorsePigCow, is a “BarCamp”: evangelist and leads a community of marketing revolutionaries under the Pinko Marketing brand.

*One Degree: What is “Citizen Agency”: ?*
Citizen Agency starts with three Citizen Agents – “Ben Metcalfe”:, “Chris Messina”: and “myself”: – who are grassroots advocates, first, and community building consultants, second. Technology companies hire us to help them connect with their communities, whether established or barely there.
Our process is simple:
I show them how to be part of the community they are serving, introducing them to their community members and building communication channels for them to open up further as well as build bridges for their community to collaborate.
Chris helps them turn feedback and user experiences into improvements in the product and helps them design to become a truly essential product – open sourcing (APIs) and employing web standards along the way.
Ben’s expertise in building developer networks (he built the devnet at the BBC) comes in handy when those APIs are available. An API is no good without developers. 😉
Strategies for customer delight… not customer acquisition. The latter naturally flows from the former.

*One Degree: I love the name. What was the genesis?*
It came to us Day One. I wrote an email to Chris and one of our advisors, Don Thorson, saying, “Our name should show the strong indication that we represent the community… that we are agents of citizens, that we won’t compromise on that.” Chris wrote back, “Citizen Agency, duh.” We jumped online to see if the URL was taken. It wasn’t. It was meant to be. 🙂
*One Degree: How do you differ from other agencies companies might look to for help?*
We aren’t about creating campaigns. We don’t design websites. We work as a team with our clients and their community to build strong relationships. It seems so specialized, but it actually leads to less spending in ridiculous areas that can be avoided. Namely over-development and advertising.
We have seen our clients already benefiting from participating in their community. They are trimming back on feature glut and building far more intuitive and smart products. And their communities are responding positively to the improvements, spreading the word for them. Once devnets get built out, you’ll see this snowball nicely.
*One Degree: From your viewpoint down in the Valley, what are the biggest trends driving online success today?*
Openness. Check out “Facebook’s”: newly launched API. Huge possibilities there. The days of walled gardens are soon to be over. Interoperability, collaborative entrepreneurship, transferable data and social groups, community-based standards (not proprietary competing ones) and customer-driven decisions (“is this going to enhance the experience of my customers?” rather than, “is this going to improve my bottom line?”) are all key. Up to now, giants have been able to hold power and sway because nobody offered the choice. Choice is coming. I’m looking forward to the results.
One Degree: Is blogging now a “cost of entry” for both marketing professionals and interactive companies? I’m not sure I trust companies without bloggers anymore – but maybe that’s just me.
You are probably right to not trust companies without bloggers, but I don’t know if everyone should be blogging. Nor should a blog mean you’ve done your communication dilligence. Definitely opening up communication with a blog is a good start for companies and those who don’t have one demonstrate a lack of transparency. Who writes the thing? It doesn’t have to be the CEO, although that shows a real commitment by the upper management to opening up to their customers.
I like the “Sun Microsystems”: model. Everyone is encouraged to blog. Let every level and department of a company tell the story from their perspective. Tell PR to look the other way. Don’t even tell legal. (unless, of course, those two groups want to blog themselves, which I highly encourage) I do think that blogs are important, but they are only a sliver of the communication channel.

One Comment

  1. Ginger K
    Ginger K September 29, 2007

    If there’s enough interest, I’ll be speaking at BarCamp in Saskatoon tomorrow, and featuring Tara.
    Thanks for this, nice, interesting and updated information.

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