Latest industry views and advice

October 12

One great joy when talking about PR, marketing and building a business is when someone simplifies the subject of strategy.

 Fergus O’Carroll, presenter of the On Strategy Showcase – featuring strategists and people working on brands around the world – recently described strategy as “simply how you connect the dots: from where you are to where you want to be”.

His appearance on the Marketing Meetup webinar was jam-packed full of great insights:

“You have to be interesting, memorable and recognisable in your work; [you’ve] really got to embrace risk as that’s where most of the growth is coming from,” he said.

“The way to make great leaps is by doing bold, calculated things to get attention,” he added, though qualifying that with “Don’t just do wild shit for the sake of it, but smart shit in an interesting way.”

The less expletive version he coined was “Be strategically consistent but creatively unpredictable.”

Devising strategy

But how do you come up with an effective strategy for marketing, communications and business?

“Though rigour is important, [strategy] is informed opinion not certainty,” O’Carroll explained. “It’s an attempt or best guess at doing what you feel is the best way of going about doing something. [And] if it’s not successful, don’t fire the team: it’s about adjusting and moving ahead; an iterative process based on a culture of experimentation.”

He also warned against strategy being internally-derived by only getting different teams or disciplines together: “Get connected with real people in the real world: that objective perspective – qualitative, anecdotal insights – can help unlock new approaches and adds most value. You need a moment that connects the dots, makes everything clear and often that’s outside your organisation and outside your own head.”

An important point to remember, he added, is that “there is no one truth or answer. Don’t stress about perfection; it’s about adapting and learning. Have belief and confidence but not dogged conviction. Socialise your thinking, get buy-in from others and the worst thing is to sit in a room by yourself. [With] collaboration…you can make a strategy even better.”

Seven important action points to support your strategy

Aside from all his other great advice, O’Carroll captured seven important elements for a successful strategy:

1. Be ambitious

For your brand and yourself – expect it from yourself and your agency or freelance partners. Insist upon great work as big ideas will always beat big budgets. It’s really about the thinking, connecting with the right people and creative talent.

2. Don’t make your beliefs your identity

Don’t assume you know the answers. Good marketers/strategists are open to disproving their own beliefs; be willing to go on the journey and not be inflexible.

3. Don’t get distracted by the latest shiny object

Don’t let the “new” make you feel obsolete or insecure about what you’re doing. Stick to first principles.

4. Cultivate your taste

Know what’s going on, what exists out there. Immerse yourself, especially outside your category, as inspiration. Spend time investigating great work and have “lunch and learns” to raise expectations within your organisation.

5. Embrace uncertainty

Real heroes of marketing are embracing uncertainty. Make sure you’re managing risk as it’s not about being irresponsible but calculated choice. Do the due diligence but you need to feel slightly uncertain/uncomfortable because it’s different.

 6. Be fair and realistic

Treat people well, with respect and make sure they know you’re on their side. Short-termism is destructive; great work doesn’t happen at speed. Also, know what’s realistic from a budget point of view. You can’t go to an agency and say we need to achieve X on this budget (if it’s not realistic).

7. Remember that simple works every time

Strategy can become too complicated whereas simple, great work can change an entire brand/business. Nine times out of ten it’s a simple thought executed well that works.

Listen to the full interview with Fergus O’Carroll here


For advice and support with your PR and communications strategy, contact Metamorphic PR

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