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A word from the APG's new Co-Chairs

Think of a planner. What image comes to mind? Ironic notebook? Quiet demeanour? Statement glasses? You probably conjured one of these, right? 

There’s a lingering stereotype that planners are introverted intellectuals who prefer to work solo. Of course it’s a cliché for a reason. Many strategic thinkers would choose time and space to mull over a problem or an idea. Our profession has long been dominated by a homogeneity of brilliant minds from the top universities making their way to agencies in the South East of England. And the nature of the discipline often requires us to digest much information from many sources and spend hours alone behind a laptop. 

But as this industry chops and changes and we open up to new generations of talent from beyond the M25, new technologies, new agency models, new comms landscapes, and new steel-framed glasses there seems to be a shift in how planners are working.

The APG Skills Survey last year revealed that this weirdly indefinable role is becoming even more multi-faceted. We have to be analysts and visionaries. We have to be mathematicians and storytellers. We have to be technologists and ethnographers. We have to be creative conjurers and media masterminds. Simply put, we have to be ‘both’. 

It’s an impossible ask. Or at least pretty rare to find all of that in one human. And as a result, it seems that we are… blending. Like the creative pairings that have always seemed so instinctively right, we are finding comfort and inspiration in each other. It’s not completely new of course, we are social human beings and we have long enjoyed debating ideas as a planning community, but there is a new collaborative spirit emerging in our working relationships. Perhaps it’s a reflex reaction from the pandemic too, where we were more isolated and now we’re delighting in the stimulus of other strategic thinkers again.

So for a pair of us to be asked to Co-Chair the APG for the next two years is not just smart because no one person can step into Michael Lee’s shoes. He led the APG with boundless humility, intelligence, grace and a ton of humour; and his ‘Arrive and Thrive’ work with the amazing Jo Arden is opening up planning as a profession and making it a welcoming home. But our joint leadership is also reflective of where we are going as an industry. We’re seeing creative and media disciplines reuniting under one roof. In-house planners are working side by side with client strategists. And probably because our industry needs as much collective positive energy as it can get, agencies are coming out in vocal support of one another more often these days.

We’re all grappling with the conflicting forces at play in today’s industry; talent and tech, purpose and profit, commerce and creativity, brand and performance. And the APG has always supported planners through best in class training, celebrating success and fostering a community. So as we navigate the next couple of years, this incredible organisation feels more relevant and exciting than ever.


For us Co-Chairs, squinting ahead at the future, we’re excitedly considering some big questions. How do we ‘blend’ even more as strategic thinkers? How do we make sharing more instinctive? How do we create an even more collegiate and collaborative community where we can all learn from each other? How do we create ways for us to see things from both sides and balance the opposing ideas in today’s industry? This is some of what we hope to achieve together.

To end on some more clichés, a problem shared is a problem halved, none of us is as smart as all of us, and two heads are better than one. Well, we’re more than two heads. We are unendingly fortunate to have the wonderful leadership and guidance of Sarah Newman, along with Lexi and Alison to help us try to continue their astonishing work for the APG. 

We definitely don’t have all the answers or ideas, so we’d welcome anything anyone wants to share with us or ask of the APG. Who knows what’s coming, and as we’ve all learnt the only certainty is change, but we’ll run at it together.

Emily Harlock and Martin Beverley

APG Co-Chairs


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