Yesterday I went to the APG’s strategy conference which was themed ‘How To Win Against All The Odds’.
There were four speakers, all from totally different backgrounds, who had some interesting things to say, if not obviously about media planning. Here are a few of the most interesting points:
Canon Giles Fraser
He was the chancellor of St Paul’s during the Occupy London protest and is quite an outspoken Jeremy Kyle-type character! He has taught ethics at Oxford and to the army and he talked yesterday about how making decisions on the battlefield can be related to real life. Some of his tips:
Four ways you can build courage (not just for battle!)
Training – making sure you’re absolute confident in what you’re doing
Discipline – practice, practice, practice which makes you more confident in what you’re doing
Patriotism - feel like you’re part of a team and don’t want to let them down
Faith- belief that what you’re doing is right
His personal mantra is ‘fake it ’til you make it’ (stolen from Alcoholics Anonymous). The idea that if you act like you are already a particular character/have a certain job, eventually it will happen!
She is the head/founder of the Violence Reduction Unit for Strathclyde Police and painted a very graphic picture of the gang violence on some of Glasgow’s streets (including CCTV footage of stabbings whilst people do their normal shopping next to them). It was very sobering. She discussed the way in which she approached the seemingly mammoth task of reducing gang violence:
When someone comes to you with an idea/way of doing things, you can do one of three things:
Help them/lead with them
Get out of the way!
This is interesting when applied to the work we do – we should all get behind the really good ideas.
It’s also helpful to reframe the problem – they started to think of the spread of violence as a disease/epidemic and took steps to contain its spread as you would with a contagious outbreak.
Her personal mantra is ‘proceed until apprehended’ – a nice thought about forging the way ahead when it’s not often clear how far you should go. She also said when she started the project, she “didn’t have a map, but she had a compass” – she knew where she wanted to get but not how to get there.
Sir John Hegarty
The founder of BBH and legendary ad-man, he talked about how to win against the odds with specific relevance to pitching. His tips:
Creativity is just an expression of self – so be an interesting person. The client will find the whole meeting more interesting and look forward to working with you
Be your own personal brand/reputation – this will mean you attract certain kinds of people who want to work with you (not everyone, you can’t please everyone)
Truth. Trust. Respect. These are the three holy grail things you can hope for from clients
Make sure you talk about things in terms your client understands – we have a lot of unnecessary jargon in our jobs but it’s not essential
If things seem like a lottery – change the rules – it’s yours for the taking
Believe in quality all the way through – you can’t be a great agency with amazing ideas who then serve crap coffee!
The final word came from ex-Tory MP Michael Portillo who mostly talked about being in government and his spectacular downfall. Oh and endless plugs for his BBC TV show about railways. But the advice I gleaned:
Assess the odds. Are they as stacked against you as you think?
Resilience is the most important thing – pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going after a fall
Be unreasonable when necessary – if you think something is worth pushing, then keep pushing – make people care/feel like it’s their problem
The session ended in a quite heated debate with Canon Fraser claiming that advertising ‘is often pointless and forces us to buy stuff we don’t need’. You can imagine Hegarty’s reaction…