- Former Employee, less than 1 year★★★★★
From the perspective of a Content Manager — it’s not goodAug 31, 2021 - Content ManagerRecommendCEO ApprovalBusiness Outlook
Your fellow writers and editors are amazing people. They are talented people. Your direct manager really does care about you, your work, your experience. Unfortunately your direct manager is unable to make most necessary changes to the teams and processes that everyone needs to be successful. Exposure to some really cool clients. Truly remote, * kind of sort of * flexible hours (depending on where you live). Your peers live around the globe. I’m pretty sure all six inhabited continents are represented in some way. It should be noted that regardless of where you live, you are expected to work mostly Eastern US hours. I’m going to list benefits as a pro because they are much better than a lot of people have access to, however, I would not consider them “competitive” or “really great.” PTO is 20 days + 5 floating holidays. There are “unlimited” sick and personal days. However, given the nature of the business, it’s hard to really take quality time off because it means more work and stress on the other end for lost time and missed quotas, or asking other team members to take your work while you’re gone, or finding freelancer coverage for yourself while you’re gone. Regardless of where you live, bank holidays/federal holidays are not recognized (there are 11 in the US). This is where you can use your 5 floating holidays. It’s also worth noting if you aren’t US based, you are an independent contractor, and as such, you are not entitled to any benefits. This is despite the fact their website says everyone is hired as a “full time” employee. There is also no dependent coverage. Working here might be a good fit if it’s your first job, or you are brand new to content marketing. The pay is somewhat decent by that standard.
Both employee churn and customer churn is bad. Employee churn is the worst I’ve ever seen at any company I’ve worked for. At the time of this writing, most people seem to be leaving the company after having worked only six to nine months. Though leadership will tell you at a 100 person company, losing an average of four employees a month is * totally normal. * There’s non-solicitation clauses added to client contracts, saying that no Animalz employee can work for them for two years. Usually non-solicitation clauses are added to a * worker’s * contract to stop them from going to work for the competition in fear of sharing secrets and processes. This can’t be said for Animalz. There is no secret sauce strategy or process at Animalz (though their PR stunts would suggest otherwise) — the entire company is successful because the people who work(ed) there are smart. If you ever want another job (and you will) this is not the place for you as you will not be able to work at any company that has used Animalz. If you have any experience, or a particular niche skillset or knowledge, the pay is not even a little bit competitive. Animalz is likely not going to do much to further your career if you already have experience. You’ll recognize pretty quickly your skillsets are being taken advantage of and unfairly compensated for. They purposefully hire way below what they know you’re worth and promise to “promote you quickly.” Some people get promoted, others do not. Their transparent salary system was a sham and they’ve since replaced it with salary bands that have nonsensical requirements and actually caps out individual contributors at a lower salary than the older leveling system. It’s very clear their new plan is to keep people at low salaries, burn them out, then replace them. There is no structure to grow people. Leadership is really good at making sure new employees don’t see how problematic things are until a few months in. In your first few months you’ll likely be asked to write a Glassdoor review by more than one management team member, because in your first few months you’ll likely have a positive view of the company (hint). You know it’s a bad sign when the only active, positive people in meetings, video chats, and on Slack are those who have all been there less than 3 months. I re-read the review someone wrote in 2019 about what life is really like at Animalz, and unfortunately it seems not a lot has changed since then. People have been complaining about the tools and processes for a very long time. They are not scaling with company growth. At all. Dealing with these unworkable tools and process takes up so much of your time it’s astounding. You won’t have direct access to the tools you need. Accounts are either a giant shared email (which comes with problems), or it’s potentially under someone else’s work email (that may not even work there anymore)! People have to bug other people in Slack for passwords or to get 2-factor codes for a tool they’re using someone else’s email for. The whole workflow is chaos. But leadership continues to say everything is fine, because surveys show people are fine with the tools. Yes, when your entire staff is constantly churning and the majority of them are brand new, they will not spot the problems with workflows and tools. Leadership is dismissive of those who have been at the company a while who give negative feedback because it is undoubtably a smaller percentage, and therefore in the minority. This is no-doubt used as an excuse to not invest money into working processes. There’s been a huge breakdown between two tools that are integral to the company and instead of fixing them, leadership’s response was to tell everyone that they need to practice the value of “ownership” and deal with it themselves. The way they deal with internal tools is actually frightening, both from an employee perspective as well as a security perspective. The work-life balance is an interesting one. Some people seem to do okay and some people are continuously working 60+ hours a week to get things done. Yet, this has nothing to do with how talented someone is or how time-oriented they are. This is pretty much up to luck on who your clients are. Some clients are easy. Some clients are toxic. The current growth-over-everything mindset means the company is taking on clients regardless of if there’s bandwidth to work with them, regardless of how niche or technical they want their content, regardless of if they have buy-in to be a part of the feedback loop and have time to work with a CM. There is no matching process for clients and CMs. It very quickly starts to feel like a content farm. They have implemented “custom workloads” to adjust for burnout, however, “custom workloads” seem to be a thing that is dangled in front of everyone, but no one really knows how it’s supposed to work — most people haven’t seen any reasonable change. In fact, in a recent company update, leadership was bragging about how they were able to get new hires to be putting out content at the highest level of the old quota system in their third month. So which is it? Do people get custom workloads, or do they need to quickly learn to churn out content based on the old quota system? No one knows. I would suggest you seek out a CM on LinkedIn who has been at Animalz at least 6 months and ask what the current workload situation is like. If your job is a CM, be prepared to be a CM, strategist, project manager, and account manager. You have to manage and keep track of the entire client relationship, as well as strategize, write, perform administrative duties, and provide reporting (reporting is a nightmare and mostly always broken). If you happen to be a freelancer who is thinking about working here, this job is basically still freelancing, except you don’t have any control over which clients you work with. Your direct manager is theoretically supposed to be a strategist, and they are talented strategists, but they have no time to actually help with strategy — they are constantly people managing as well as onboarding both new clients and employees. And they are usually also managing freelancers, as the business does rely heavily on freelancers to keep up to pace with clients. They have plans to introduce a new team structure, however that plan is little more than a few bullet points on a slide. There’s no details, no job descriptions, no actual answers on how any of it will work. CMs, regardless of their level will still have to carry the brunt of all the work until it's figured out and then won’t be promoted even though they’ve been doing all the work. If you are brand new to content marketing, don’t expect much of a supportive education here. You need to do it on your own time and likely find your own resources. They claim you can get a solid education on strategy, SEO, and writing, however no one has time to teach you anything. People will try to be helpful and share knowledge, but you can also see that most people around you are overworked and burnt out. It’s simply not a good learning environment. Beyond that, tenured and experienced employees are leaving at a rapid rate, leaving few employees left who know the business to learn from anyway. There has been so much lip service about making “ideal customer profiles” to match with CMs, about how they want to integrate L&D to invest in people, how they want to create custom workloads rather than a straight quota based system, how they want to be more active with DEI. None of these things seem to be able to move past the planning phase. There is no concrete timeline or real action being taken on any of it. Again, I would suggest seeking out a current CM at the company who has been there more than 6 months to get an accurate view of the current state of these things. And lastly, leadership. Toxic positivity and deflection seems to be at the core of leadership. Leadership will talk your ear off about transparency, but refuses to answer hard questions or address anything negative. Every single problem the company has is ignored (or blamed on the pandemic) until the issue feels like it’s going to cause an implosion. I think the delusion they have is that if they don’t talk about it, employees will forget the issues exist. Churn rates say otherwise. They very clearly focus on keeping brand new employees happy and write off existing employees as soon as it’s clear those employees no longer think the company is shiny and perfect, or have the audacity to ask a tough question and expect a real answer. Leadership consistently makes public posts or gives interviews about how great the Animalz process is and how Animalz is different. These posts kill employee morale because the posts are so hypocritical and not realistic to the experience and process at all. How Animalz says it operates and how it actually operates is a difference of day and night. If in the end you decide to work for Animalz, I highly suggest you watch any video that is available of company all-hands meetings and the CEO’s office hours (from the past four/five months of this posting at least). They are all recorded and made available to employees who couldn’t attend. These videos will shed some light on the deflection and failure to address the reality of the issues.Continue reading
Thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and honest review of your experience at Animalz. In the last few months, we have made changes to address several of the issues you raise here and have concrete plans to address many of the other concerns to improve our team and customer experience. Saying this out loud because it’s an important perspective for anyone reading; change does take time, especially as an organization that’s 100+ people. Before we address individual issues, it’s important to share that we know the path forward to create change will require input across the organization. Coming out of 2020, Devin and I both felt like we needed to do everything we could to shield our team from problems, failing to realize that by bringing more folks into our decision-making process, we’ll be able to move forward on solutions faster. The reason we’ve spoken about the org restructure for a few months is because we needed time to create new roles (6), promote people (10+) and from a belief that to be successful, we have to focus on who and then what: https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/first-who-then-what.html. Our new structure is designed to give ownership to more of the people that have been instrumental in building Animalz and creating the product that we’re known for. In terms of what we’ve started to fix, we’ve improved compensation, we’re creating a clearer process for promotions and career changes, continued to have conversations about custom workloads and increased capacity on the team to make custom workloads possible. Our GM has led the charge on specializing each role so that Content Managers can focus on their zone of genius: writing, with the support of other team members on strategy and customer success respectively. In the new team structure, each team will have more opportunity to decide where new customers go, and we have added skills/interests into BambooHR + a pre-onboarding step with our customers to facilitate stronger customer matches. As we look ahead to 2022, we’re excited to work with a cross-section of leaders to address the other issues you’ve raised. The systems and processes that worked when we were 20 or 50 people are breaking, and department leads have shared ideas to improve our production pipeline, our strategy process, and more. So excited to tackle these opportunities in Q1! We are a forever work in progress but are sharing this knowing that we’re making steps in the right direction. If you’re reading this from the outside and want to discuss questions or concerns raised in this review further, reach out to us at email@example.com. We’ll gladly connect you with a current team member to share their perspective.
- Current Employee, more than 1 year★★★★★Jul 7, 2022 - Content Marketing ManagerRecommendCEO ApprovalBusiness Outlook
A few days into my career at Animalz, I knew it was a great fit. However, because of past toxic job experiences, I was wary that I was in a "honeymoon" phase that would eventually wear off. Over a year later, it still hasn't worn off! No company is perfect, but what makes Animalz stand out is that leadership genuinely cares about their people and is working to make things better. Sometimes that progress is slow, sometimes it creates growing pains, etc. But I've been in places where no progress is made at all...so dealing with growing pains feels far better. It's a sign that they're continually trying to make things better and are always willing to admit when they're wrong and need to change direction. Agency life in general can be hard. It requires a focus on production, which can be stressful. But over the years they've reduced the number of articles to a manageable amount after listening to their employees. They're also working on ways to reduce the emphasis on production numbers. That's not an easy task in an agency environment, but they're willing to take it on for our sake. As far as workload, the expectation is 8 articles a month (on the months you don't take PTO). If you come from agency life, you know how manageable this is compared to most agencies that require you to write an article a day sometimes. The feedback process is hefty, so in general, the articles do take longer from start to finish, but it's so nice to be able to focus on quality over quantity.
If you haven't been in a position where you're writing full-time (or if you have no agency experience), there might be a steep learning curve to ramp up to the production required. So if you're genuinely not interested in writing full time, this probably isn't the position for you. The company is also facing growing pains right now (largely due to restructuring how teams work). This is natural with any company, but if you're easily stressed out by change then maybe consider applying 6 months from now when things have stabilized.Continue reading
- Former Employee, more than 1 year★★★★★Jan 9, 2023 - Content Manager in New York, NYRecommendCEO ApprovalBusiness Outlook
If you’re someone who’s terrific at context switching, and a very competent (and patient) writer, Animalz was once a pretty neat gig. The pay was and remains awful relative to US market rates, but the previously high-trust, low-oversight management approach meant it used to be easy for skilled people to do work and own their own calendars by-and-large. This made the place a mecca for people who worked to live, instead of those who live to work, and for people who had other projects/businesses/side-hustles to also give their attentions to. However, I am currently talking about a completely different company (the Animalz of the past) than the one I am about to talk about (the Animalz of the more-recent-past and present).
Animalz is an absolute textbook of mismanagement – in my time the company went from being in a position of imperious advantage through the COVID period to being in an absolute death spiral now. The company is awash in cynicism at every level. Shocking rates of pay compared to market averages. No-clue leadership team rinsing the company for massive salaries and reciting Monty Python bits during All-Hands despite catastrophic staff churn and client churn. Product announcements than come to nothing. Deafeningly insensitive attempts at DEI. If you’re a writer here you’ll pretty quickly start wondering why you’re doing a lot of customer success and strategy work, despite the fact that: there is almost certainly a CSM and a strategist on your team; they both get paid more than you; and, in the present climate, their jobs are more secure than yours. Idiotic org chart management has plagued Animalz for two years at least while prior management play-acted that the company – a standard-issue content farm – was actually a technology startup. CSMs, for instance, are redundant for a company that sells something so simple and that most clients, unfortunately, treat as a tiresome irrelevance anyway. No one in the ‘product’ division ever had a clue about product, and the Animalz array remained sadly undiversified despite the fact that the company would now be printing money if they’d invested in, say, video content during the pandemic. As with all mismanaged companies, incentives for Animalz employees are absolutely all over the place. Knowing that there’s not enough work to go around, the leadership team decided to impose production quotas. This was such a self-own that, despite the initiative ostensibly being put in place to increase output, it led to the company firing or downgrading a number of their best people just because they hadn’t been given enough work during a given month to meet quota or, as is incredibly frequently the case, because the work they’d done had been improperly billed. Animalz has no institutional memory and does not account for historical productivity; it arbitrarily assigned a uniform quota, and anyone who was below it after a couple months was sent to the slaughterhouse, irrespective of specific circumstances (including being on vacation, illness etc.). Again, these quotas are mandated despite: a) a lack of available work b) a lack of training for new CMs, several of whom I mentored and who had horrific experiences here c) imbalanced distribution of duties among the team, so that CM workloads frequently get overwhelming, while non-CMs bear no responsibility whatsoever for deliverables or performance d) the fact that you as a writer are not even going to be paid market rate for your experience or skills, while doing 2.5 jobs, at least This complete waking nightmare for writers is not made any easier by Animalz’s pointlessly over-elaborated editing schema. While individual editors here are good at what they do, the editing norms at Animalz appear to take it as given that all of the company’s writers can’t write, and that all of the readers of the company’s work aren’t bright enough to understand even the most familiar turns of figurative language. Not a good basis for getting the best possible work out of your writing stable. Training and institutional knowledge access are both non-existent. I’d be astonished if the company still exists for all intents and purposes in a year – best case scenario it will have morphed into an AI content farm (a Christmas which a great many of the more turkey-minded staff seem weirdly enthusiastic about). Plenty of other perfectly good writers will have been ground through the mill by then, whatever the outcome.Continue reading