the playbook.

Every day we show up to our office and get to it. So much of what we do, our processes and systems, are so ingrained in us that we often overlook their importance. So we decided to spell it out.

This is our Playbook—a totally transparent look at the day-to-day operations of our shop and how we work. Originally designed as an internal reminder and organizational tool, this is a living document that we are happy to share with our clients, future project partners and potential co-workers. It lives because the nature of our industry is constant change, and that is reflected in how we do business. These processes and details will evolve as our agency grows, team members join and project partners expand.

If you’re looking to explore a new project or join the crew, you’re in the right place to learn all there is about rustmedia in one page. So jump in, wade through and then get in touch when you’re ready to chat.


The rustmedia Manifesto


Our Values
The Office
Our Work Week


First Date
The Proposal
Contract + Invoice
Kickoff Meeting
Strategy Brief
Ride the Wave
Quality Assurance + Revisions
Delivery + Launch
The Ideal Client


Apps + Tools


What We're Looking For

the manifesto.

We are a group of designers, developers, makers and doers dedicated to our craft. We buy into the idea that the golden rule still applies, and truth always wins.

We are a people-centric company. We believe in the simplicity of goodness and the daily pursuit of something better. Food, cheer and song above hoarded gold.

We stand for something—and we expect the same from those we partner with. We believe that if you care, you inspire the same empathy and compassion in those around you.

We go all in. We believe in the power of the story and the influence of the storyteller. Stories are ultimately about people. Not a product. Not a concept. Not a paycheck.

We are a small crew, with big plans to make the world a more beautiful, connected place, and we know we can’t do it alone.

how we work.


You work hard. We work hard. And just like you, we’ve drawn a roadmap, a set of guiding principles that drive us and guide our processes. Really, it’s pretty simple:

  • Be Authentic. Our agency was built on the premise of telling stories honestly. Being direct is the easiest and most efficient way to build great products and better relationships.
  • Buy In. The right projects for us are the ones that have a proven chance to make a change. A real difference for people, your business or our community. We go all in and expect the same from those we partner with.
  • Be Simple. It isn’t always easy, but boiling down complex concepts into straightforward, singular solutions eliminates confusion and allows us to be as flexible as possible.
  • Enjoy. At the end of the day, if you’re not loving what you’re doing, what’s the point?
The Office

We work out of a beautiful, open space in downtown Cape Girardeau, Missouri—an historic 1924 building renovated in 2005. Our office is as eclectic as each team member calling it home. We’re surrounded by dry erase boards and bobbleheads, letterpress posters and Greg’s seemingly endless supply of snacks. Operating out of the heart of the Heartland, on the banks of the Mississippi, we are constantly reminded of the honesty, craftsmanship and trust that built the Midwest and how we build experiences for our partners.

Our Work Week

Day-to-day, the environment and activity of our office can change. We may be all hands on deck planning the next Semoball Awards show, or you may experience a silent eight hours of head down, plugged-in industry research. No two days are the same, and that’s the way we like it. There are a few constants:

  • Rise 'n Grind. Every Monday morning our team meets to develop the general gameplan for that week, talk timeline and address the challenges and celebrate the wins of the previous week.
  • ⌘R. One day a month we reset. Refresh. We call it command—R. This is a day to stay off the phone, give our email a break and focus on our team. We give attention to internal projects, plan for future clients or simply relax and reconnect with the folks we work side-by-side with every day.
  • Inspiration Solo. This one is a little less structured, but important nonetheless. We know inspiration doesn’t always strike within the walls of the office or between 8 and 5, so we encourage our team to always carve out some time during the week to discover something new, work from a coffee shop, dig through books at a thrift store or simply find that place that motivates them. Ignites something new. When we are inspired, so is the work.

We are real, genuine people. We live and work in a small town that continues to grow, and we believe we can’t thrive without being a part of it. That’s why we encourage our crew to engage in the community, write blogs, sit on nonprofit boards, volunteer and actively be a part of the world around us. You can find members of our team reading with elementary students, volunteering in local churches, leading community groups and organizing fundraisers. We know we can’t do it all alone, so we always welcome a helping hand. Below are a few of the causes and organizations we encourage our clients and community to join us in:

  • The Scout daily email brings home the good news you care about: Food, music, events, people.Only the hits. The Midwest is an incredible, evolving culture. We're here to make sure you know all about it.
  • Read to Succeed, through the United Way, is a structured reading program for kindergarten and first-grade students in five Cape Girardeau area schools that develops basic reading skills. Volunteers meet with students weekly, building relationships and offering encouragement.
  • Alzheimer’s Association is an organization near and dear to Project Manager Jamie’s heart. From community education to fundraising, participation in this organization is focused on increasing awareness and understanding of the disease within the community.
  • Chamber Young Professionals, through the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, is an organization for emerging leaders looking to network in the Cape Girardeau community. Events are hosted throughout the year that provide opportunities for education, networking and socialization with others.

The genesis of this agency was telling the story well and being truthful.

Gary Rust II

The Project Process.

We’re here to tell the compelling stories of brands we believe in. Partnering with us is easy, a straightforward process. The steps below will give you a detailed roadmap of how we approach each journey and what you can expect along the ride.


Let’s start at the top. Every project begins when you say ‘hello.’ Give us a call or complete this simple form. Our team will review and follow up with brief questions to learn more about your goals and discuss next steps.

First Date

One of the most important steps in our partnership is the initial meeting. Typically, you’ll meet with Gary Rust (our Director) and Jeff Rawson (our Creative Director). We’ll make plans to meet at your place or ours, or a mutual coffee shop. The biggest point of this discussion is to get to know each other. To see if we jive. Are you our ideal client? Are we your ideal solution? We want to know more about you and want to share more about our team.

As we get better acquainted, we hope to learn as much as we can about the timelines, audience, budget and most importantly, purpose of your project. We’ll ask more ‘why?’ questions than a four year old. The goal is to discover the underlying needs and pinpoint any other potential opportunities. The better grasp we have of your vision and overall goals, the better the solutions we can tailor for you.

No worries, this is all pretty casual. Here are a few questions that could pop up during the initial meetup:

  • What made you give us a call?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What will this project do for your business or cause?
  • Who are the key stakeholders and decision makers for the project?
  • What is the budget and timeline for the project?
  • How does your organization define success?
  • Who is your audience/ideal customer?
The Proposal

We’ve met and it’s a good fit. Our team reviews the overall scope of the project and, within a week, you can expect to receive a proposal. This will be accompanied by a phone call or another meeting (we try to minimize the number of meetings needed to complete a project) to discuss the details and answer any questions you may have. We put it all out there on paper to clearly communicate who we are, how we work and what we can provide to meet and exceed your needs. Our proposals include:

  • Our manifesto. A reminder of who we are and what we believe.
  • A brief description of the project scope and desired outcomes based on the initial meeting.
  • Detailed list of deliverables.
  • Proposed bid. We try to provide flat-fees for projects as often as we can, but when it makes sense to provide hourly rates per team member involved, we will.
Contract + Invoice

Once we have come to agreement on the project, deliverables, budget and turnaround time, we will send over a contract and initial invoice. The contract will contain the agreed-to scope, including number of concepts, number of revisions, fees, terms and non-disclosure agreements (if applicable). At this point we’ll discuss payment structure and timing. Typical projects require 50% payment at kickoff and 50% payment upon completion and delivery of the final product. In some instances, payments can occur at predetermined benchmarks. Each project and situation is unique and we do our best to meet our partners where they are. Once the contract is signed, it’s time to dive in.

Kickoff Meeting

Now it’s time for the fun to begin. Before our team dives into individual industry research, best practices evaluation and design, we want to get the whole team together: all members of your organization that will be involved in the project and key stakeholders from our end. The goal of the Kickoff is to gain a complete understanding of your organization, your brand, industry, target audience/s, opportunities, challenges, big picture goals and overall vision.

Typically, Kickoff meetings become very organic and are unique to each partner and project. but we’ll show up with hearty list of questions and tools to get the conversation started. You can expect questions like: What is your mission, vision, elevator pitch? How do you perceive your current brand image? How do your customers or potential customers? Why does your organization exist and why should anyone care?

We’ll send most of these questions to you days before the meeting to help make our time together as productive as possible. You’ll also receive a link to Boards, our visual collaboration process. It’s fairly simple: you’ll see a collection of images, videos, icons, words and colors. Select those that most closely represent your organization’s personality, vision and mission. You’ll also be able to upload any other images/sketches/swatches that you would like to share with us. Basically, this is a way for us to begin working together from the start, visually communicating things that can be tough to represent with words alone.

Strategy Brief

This happens within our team after the Kickoff meeting. Our representatives that have met with you brief our entire team on your culture, project details and expectations to develop a unified strategy and plan of execution. We set internal deadlines, review results from the Kickoff meeting and conduct intensive research on your brand and industry. We’re nerds about this stuff and it helps us connect to your story and environment at the most granular level.

Ride the Wave

The Kickoff Meeting is wrapped, our teams are in sync and work begins. We don’t want to lose momentum, so (depending on the project) you can expect to see some immediate results in the first week. We’ve developed a variety of plays to run after onboarding a new project partner. Depending on the stated goals and deliverables, these plays could include:

  • Content Audit. The content audit is a great way for our team to become more acquainted with your organization’s existing content and how it is being used. We analyze a variety of data and follow a series of steps including site scans, content gap analysis, keyword research, customer personas and page views. This process results in a content audit strategy and recommendations for next steps..
  • Optimization + Blog Development. We begin this play quite simply by performing the basics of site optimization—reviewing page traffic, identifying keywords, and other low-hanging SEO opportunities. Utilizing keywords and industry research, we can begin crafting blogs and a plan for team members to get involved in the editorial process.
  • Email Kickoff. We’ll ask you for your email list, any list. We then run a simple email campaign (dependent on your industry and list) to gain some quick insight on information gaps, subject interest, warm leads and bad email addresses to help refine the list. This kickoff email can be in the form of a survey, promotion, or social media push..
Research + Concept

Industry research, persona development and best practices really are ongoing tasks throughout our relationship. We constantly strive to gain insight on what’s happening in your environment and the environments of your customers.

During this time, our team puts together everything we’ve collected from partner meetings and industry research to create the final products and put a strategy into action. The concepting and design phase of any project depends on the scope of deliverables, partner feedback, and current workload. Clear timelines are established up front to keep us all on track to meet milestones and launch on or ahead of schedule.

Quality Assurance + Revisions

We work together through this process. We know if we aren’t satisfied with the work, you won’t be either. Our team continues to refine our Quality Assurance Checklists that guide us on pre-launch delivery. We test every link, proofread every sentence and follow-up on any questions you may have.

We believe in direct collaboration and that the best work is born out of working together with our project partners. Quality Assurance and revision do not happen without the input from both teams.

Delivery + Launch

This is the fun part. Our team lives for the process and challenges that each project presents. Nothing is like seeing our work and yours combined in a living product.

Throughout the process we develop, organize and account for all assets of your brand: logos, colors, brand guidelines, templates and images. Upon final payment, this folder is turned over to you, along with all final deliverables. We also keep these on hand if you should lose track of them in the future. To protect intellectual property and overall consistency in your brand, we do not supply original working files unless this has been discussed and agreed upon in advance.

Throughout this workflow, we become increasingly invested in your brand, your team and your overall progress. We know brands and the marketing landscape constantly change, so we’re here to help maintain and present opportunities to build our relationship and your success in the future. We believe in long-lasting partnerships and are never farther than a phone call or email away.

The Ideal Client

Not every project that comes our way is a perfect fit. We care too much about your success and ours to give half an effort or underdeliver on a project that doesn’t benefit both parties. Our project partners operate all around the world: from manufacturing to healthcare, entertainment to financial services. Through casual initial meetings and communication, we determine if our team can fully deliver on your expectations. Ideal project partners typically meet all of these guidelines:

  • Opportunity. We look to partner with organizations that have immediate or ongoing challenges and opportunities. Our job is to provide creative solutions (and only the ones they need) and identify any other potential opportunities.
  • Collaboration. We go all in on every initiative we tackle and expect the same from our project partners. Without dedication to research, detail and deadline expectations, projects cannot be successfully and efficiently launched.
  • Values. We’re kind of old school in this way. We won’t take on a project (large budget or small) if your organization’s values don’t jive with ours. We’re not saying we have to agree on every detail of how your business is run, but we respect people and seek out those who do the same.
  • Flexibility. We can’t fix everything. Marketing can be a complicated process, both in established, legacy organizations and those just getting started. What we do ask is that our project partners keep an open mind as we explore all possible solutions to your unique challenges.
  • Design. We don’t ask that our clients fully understand design (that’s our job), but that they do appreciate it. Content is still king, but design can make or break any user experience. We absolutely value and need our partners’ input to every project we take on, but we look for clients who trust us to do what we do.

The Toolkit.

Day in and day out, we rely on a core group of systems and applications to make us more efficient. From time management software to reporting tools, communication internally and with our project partners is key. Here’s what’s in the toolbelt:

  • Google Docs + Sheets
  • SharpSpring
  • Basecamp
  • FunctionFox
  • join.me
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Dropbox  
  • Boards
  • Moz Local
  • Moz Pro
  • Dash This
  • Sendible
  • Benchmark email
  • Tracker
  • Emma

Joining the team.

We always look for talented people. Those who want to make a difference. If you’ve read through this playbook and think you could be a good fit, keep reading

What we look for.

We are a lean crew, on purpose. We believe a small group of the most talented people are more flexible and more invested in each project we take on. We hire people, not positions or titles.

That said, we look for:

  • Ambition
  • Engaging attitudes
  • Curiosity and the need to learn more
  • Research nerds
  • Team players (this is a “playbook”)
  • Difference makers

Bringing on a new member to the team isn't too much different than onboarding a new client. First, check out the careers page and see what's available. Don't see your position but think you're a good fit with our team? Then send your resume and portfolio to Jamie at jbarnwell@rustmedia.com.

Our hiring process starts with a casual meeting, usually with Gary or Jeff. We want to get to know the 3D you, not just the flat, resume version.

If it feels like a good fit, you'll meet more of the team and collectively, we'll make the call. Once you're in, you will be introduced to all the tools, hooked up with a computer and hit the ground running.

You did it.
You read the whole thing

Now you know all about us, we want to know about you.
If you think it could be a good fit, get in touch and let's discuss your next project.

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