This is an edited version of the talk I gave at the APG Transformational team event.
For a few years I was lucky enough to lead strategy for what was once called the COI. The task was deceptively simple – recruit more teachers, with a focus on hard-to-fill subjects such as chemistry and maths.
The task was formidable - previous campaigns had been serially successful, and our targets were bigger than ever.
Thankfully, surprisingly even, we succeeded. But not because we were doing anything hugely different in our advertising.
Rather, the thing we did differently was work as a single, action-focused team.
A team made up of all disciplines: 15 people spanning PR, clients, CRM, data, media, events. And advertising.
A team that was institutionally collaborative, meeting like clockwork every month for half a day to report back – warts-and-all – on latest results, activities, initiatives and issues we needed to address.
A team that was problem-focused, using the last 90minutes of each session to split into 3 groups and brainstorm solutions to issues, present back to the team, prioritise solutions and agree actions.
How this made a difference: an example
We used one session to apply behavioural economics to the process of becoming a teacher. It was by turns fun, informative and revealing.
We divided into 3 cross-disciplinary groups. Each group learnt about a behavioural economics principle such as framing, anchoring and herding and came up with new ways to apply it across the journey based on their knowledge, experience and specialism. Then they rotated.
By the end of the session we had over 200 new behaviourally-based initiatives which we proritised and then grouped into short, medium and long-term wins.
One insight that came through clearly was the need for career switchers such as bankers who were considering quitting to become teachers to meet people just like themselves – people who they could genuinely relate to and ask difficult, sometimes very personal questions.
One solution to that was to create events in cities and on social media where people could ask those questions.
The first of those regional events was a huge hit. So huge, the team was overwhelmed. But because we had designed in metrics to monitor footfall per hour at the event and their follow up actions.
So we decided to do more – but to regulate the flow of people across the day, by getting people to pre-register on the website and allocating times – just as airlines do. And to include more teachers from more professional backgrounds.
The result was spectacular – our ‘front of funnel’ metrics continued to improve thanks to optimized media & messaging. But the real step-change came in the conversion further down the funnel, right where our event-based strategy was designed to hit hardest.
A result which won us a IPA Effectiveness Gold award and host of special prizes.
What’s the lesson?
The success here came not from a radical shift in comms thinking, but in our experience thinking. And then doing something about it. Learning. And adapting. Working as a team.
A radically obvious way of working perhaps.
But it's surprising how infrequently I’ve experienced a team.
APG Chair and Group Head of Strategy at adam&eveDDB
Read more about The Transformational Strategy Team Awards here