Thursday, April 2, 2009

Adivce for the next generation planners.

Leon Phang of Jung von Matt Stockholm asked me to come up with a little summary of advice for the next generation planners for his blog. That's my thoughts on what to keep in mind as a junior planner. But go and check out what a lot of truly brilliant minds like Faris Yakob, Merry Baskin or Russell Davies and Aki Spicer from the planning world around the globe think on this issue - it is really worth it - also a reminder to all not so junior planners around.

1. Don’t think in advertising - but in solutions.
Our work is less and less about ads. But about connecting to consumers through an idea. Ideas, that offer solutions to something that is relevant in their lives.

2. Get inspired by the best.
A lot of great planners put their knowledge online. Have a look at the blogs of the smartest (see more on Plannersphere or check the list on the side of my blog) You will gain great input. And have a chance to interact. Look to work at the best and most famous agencies and companies with the people you admire most. If you don't make it right away, try again. And again. It is worth it. Do not waste your time at mediocre places. Especially not early in your career. Learn from good case studies. Try “reverse engineering” from existing communications – what could have been the message? Practise!

3. Have a broad view.
Planning is about thinking smart and connecting facts and insights in a way that is hopefully new, different, relevant and successful. Interact with interesting people - not just ad guys. Read stuff. Some planning books are good, the apg awards offer further insights. But apart from that: read other stuff. Watch films. Talk to people. Get out there into life. And connect with real people - they might have interesting stuff to say and have quite a different perspective on life, brands and communications.

4. Be protective of good stuff.
Often it is not about being the "advocate of the consumer" but the "advocate of the idea". Take research as what it is. Another way to gain insights. And nothing more. A lot of times people will not recognize a brilliant idea. Learn to deal with researchers and results. And how to best care for good ideas that need to survive pre-tests. There is lots of stuff you can do. Involve consumers at the right stage - in the early phase to gain insights and clarity on how they might understand issues. When testing ideas learn how to be sneaky and beat the test methodology. Regarding innovations or communication ideas - more often then not research or lesser skilled researchers kill ideas.

5. Be visionary and realistic at the same time.
Don’t take it personal if the client does not buy into your strategy, the account person is telling you to be less bold in your presentation, or the creatives are annoyed by a creative brief that has been signed of by the client already. Get a clear understanding of the role planning is having in your agency/ company as well as for your clients or for a specific project. Take it as a game, enjoy the politics if you can handle it or steer clear of it from the beginning. It is not always about the best and truly right solution.

6. Team up - planning often is a group effort.
It is never "we against them". In case you are working in a communications agency your work will only get better if you have close relationships with your collegues. This might sound simple - but some planners love to hide out and come back with a finished brief, being discouraged that it does not hit off with the team right away. It is not always the planner that has writes the great message or brief by him- or herself. planning is a way of thinking - and can be done by any smart person on your team.

7. Do not just be right, be interesting.
With all the stuff planners come up with – creative briefs, presentations – facts, insights and data of course needs to be accurate. But it is not always the message that is 100% right, that hits the spot but the most interesting. So: be right, but do not stop there. Remember: planning at best is not merely giving direction but inspiration.