Strategy is something that has always been fascinating to me.
How to dissect briefs and in turn, come up with some incredible ideas to amaze people. I was lucky enough to attend a Training Network hosted by APG, an organisation whose aim is to grow planners and strategist’s careers.

Amelia Torode (Chief Strategy Officer at TBWA) gave an introductory talk on what strategy is, and tips to succeed. Coming away from her talk, I picked out the top three tips to become a better strategist.

  • Don’t think like a planner (you are not a planner), Think like a detective

Aim to be a real-life Sherlock. As strategists, we are problem solvers, getting to the crux of an issue and investigating to create amazing work. As we do a great amount of investigating, we can take some useful tips from detective. Firstly, don’t be afraid to paint the wall with anything and everything that you can take out the brief. Doing this allows you to make connections and map out what the brief is really asking from you. This can be photos or quotes. Anything and everything is useful. Keep everything as everything may be useful down the line. One thing you mentioned a few days ago in a passing meeting may be pivotal to tackling a brief. Use your hunches – gut feelings matter. Write down at start of project what you feel and think about the client’s brief. At the start you are thinking as a regular consumer (the target audience) and not a planner. Therefore, you are thinking about what you want and not what other people want, and that’s what makes a great strategy.

  • Story like a journalist

Journalists are at their best when they are in the loop of what’s going on in the world. The same applies to strategy. You always need to stay culturally relevant to ensure you know what consumers are interested in. Therefore, you need to understand what’s current and what is going on in the world today. If we can do this, we can create culturally relevant stories and this is what will attract people.

Always look for the big scoop. Find an angle that is original as this will grab the client and your audience’s attention. The most talked about campaigns are the ones that stand out as they break the mould, and this is what gets people interested in what you are talking about.  Direct quotes + Anecdotes work a charm.  Get these from people and colleagues as this gives substance behind your work and makes it more human. Find a scoop as this can put you ahead of the game. This will make your pitch stand head and shoulders above the rest. Write a headline. Reducing the important parts of your pitch it to memorable phrase is really important. Always remember, you’re are selling strategy to agency first, then client. If you can’t convince your team on your strategy, then how can you convince the client. Creating memorable bitesize things can get people to remember the main message behind the pitch.

  • Persuade like a lawyer

“If the glove doesn’t fit, then you must acquit”. We’ve all heard this one right? The famous quote said by Johnny Cochran. If someone said this, you know they are talking about the OJ case. See, a memorable phrase that is surrounded by hundreds of unmemorable phrases can remind people of what’s truly important. Memorable soundbites to make the client remember what you are talking about, and in turn win you pitches.

Think about the jury, i.e. the clients. These are the people you must convince. This doesn’t only fall to the clients, but also to people that you work with. A jury of your peers are extremely daunting (and harshest!) as these are the ones that must agree to your pitch first, before you can share it with your clients and create great pieces of work.

Lay the breadcrumbs to the answer. The best strategist makes people feel smart, and the worst make people feel stupid. You need to really think about how to get your argument across, so that it comes across as if they had the idea all along. An insecure planner is one that make everyone else feel stupid and make themselves look amazing.

Strategy isn’t solely built on these three tips, but they are great starting points to become a great strategist.  So the next time you get thrown into creating a pitch to win over a client, remember these key three points and you will be onto a winner!

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