From Bob Mason, EVP, Managang Director of Brand Strategy, Palio
Soon after arriving at Palio over five years ago, I posted a couple things on my office door. One was a full-page ad that I’d recently seen in the Wall Street Journal that, in big brazen letters, admonished “NO MORE MEETINGS ABOUT MEETINGS.” Having come from BBDO, one of the “big boys” of advertising, I wanted to set the tone right from the start: even though I was coming from a big agency, I detested bureaucracy and the “let’s have a meeting!” culture that plagues a lot of companies.
The other thing I put up on my door was a simple list created by Vanella Jackson, a women who is the CEO of a great global communication research firm called Hall & Partners (and whose name, I’m embarrassed to admit, makes me think of the Olympic gold medal winner and one-time Philadelphia 76er Luscious Jackson – plus the alternative band from the 90s that named themselves after him). I found this list from Ms. Jackson on the Account Planning Group website, which is a hub for agency strategy/research and planning types. Titled “My Top Tips For Being A Great Planner,” I put this list on my door to serve as a constant reminder of how I wanted my team and me to provide value to our organization and clients.
And there it’s still posted, over five years later. I probably pass by the list a good 30 times a day, bustling in and out of my office. It’s easy, of course, to not look at it most of the times I pass it. But, every once in a while, I’ll stop and read it over. I’ve found it to be very focusing on those “what the hell am I doing in this industry?” kinds of days. It’s not only sound advice for strategy/research/planning type folks, though. Taken in a broader context, it’s just as good advice to anybody who is employed in the field of marketing communications – even clients. So, in the spirit of sharing, here is Vanella Jackson’s list. Regardless of what role you play in the industry or where you’re at in your career, I think these could apply to all of us, in one way or another.
My top tips for being a great planner (by Vanella Jackson)
1) LISTEN: Listen to your clients, listen to your account team, listen to your creative team. No one listens enough and yet all the answers and opportunities are there if you listen. Advertising people are notoriously bad at listening to clients and really hearing what they have to say. Creative people are not always just being defensive when telling you why they don’t accept the clients view.
2) BE BRAVE: Tell people what you really think — what your heart tells you is true. Don’t be swayed by the intellectual arguments because they sound good, when you know deep down they are flawed.
3) ALWAYS BE GREAT: Never hear yourself say ‘that will do.’ Average work always starts somewhere. Make everything you do be the best it can be.
4) RELAX: Be comfortable with uncertainty and imprecision. Half formed ideas are the bread and butter of creativity. Don’t try to understand or grasp the whole too early. When working with creative people make sure there is space around ideas.
5) BE DIFFERENT: Always try things you haven’t done before. New ideas and insight are more likely to come when you are experimenting. Look for insights in unexpected places.
6) BE A TEAM PLAYER: Recognize that developing creative ideas is a team process. It is not just down to the planner and the creative team. Involve people. Seek lots of opinions as this will help feed your imagination and increase the chances of success.
7) HONESTY: Tell your creative team the truth. Tell it to them straight and make sure they hear it from you and not anyone else. Tell them as soon as you walk back to the agency. If they are not there leave a note and go back later.
FAMILIAR FACE: Get to know your creative team. Don’t only turn up for meetings. Pop in and see how they are doing. Take them something you have thoughts about that could be useful.
9) BE VISUAL: We live in a world that is over loaded with information. Make your mantra to be a picture can say 1000 words. Use images, videos and pictures to express feelings and emotions. After all, as planners, you work in the creative industry.
10) MAKE IT FUN: We all learn through experience and being involved. Find ways to involve your account team, your client and your creative team. Work should be fun. The best work comes more easily when it is.
So, there you have it. What, if any, tips would you add on how to be a great marketing communication practitioner? I’d love to hear them.