If I knew then….

Just prior to Christmas I was lucky enough to be an OMG ‘Pitch-off’ mentor. Every year employees from across OMD, PHD with less than 4 years in the industry get 24 hours to respond to a real client brief, which this year was for McDonalds.

Now although the quality of the responses were, quite frankly, outstanding it was the passion and drive of these twenty-something’s to come up with something truly amazing that really blew me away. So as a thirtysomething with a few years’ industry experience under my belt now, it got me thinking about what sage advice I’d share with my ambitious, twenty-something self if I could travel back in time….

LISTEN MORE

Probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. It’s a quirk of our industry that it seems to attract people who love the sound of their own voice. People who’ll talk endlessly in a meeting – and everyone will nod and make encouraging noises – but really no one has a bloody clue what they’ve been talking about.

So rather than being ‘that guy’ the best thing you can do is listen more. Listen to what your client is really saying in that briefing, to your agency partners when they’re sharing work and thinking, to all the thoughts and voices in the workshop. Drink it all in and your work will be all the better for it.

HAVE A VOICE [stop worrying what people think]

But listening more doesn’t mean being a mute. For this, my friend, is a business of opinions and if you’re not contributing you’re not adding value.

How often have you been in a meeting not quite having the courage to share that thought or idea, only for someone else to say exactly that and everyone concur. So annoying! Have the courage to not care what people think and just speak up – more often than not you’ll be right. Whether it be in a client meeting, internal brainstorm or even Mumbrella comment threads by contributing to the conversation you’ll quickly establish yourself as a thinker and go-to person by clients, colleagues and agency partners.

KNOW YOUR CLIENTS BUSINESS

How can you design effective communications solutions and advice your clients on growth strategies if you don’t know how the business works?

Basic as it is, whether you’re client-facing or not, if you’re working on a piece of business you need to know exactly what’s going on from a commercial perspective. Make sure you’re regularly asking clients about their business performance, know their greatest threats and opportunities and if all else fails, get them drunk and get the inside track that way.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN IDEAS & CREATIVITY

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but It’s not all about your well-crafted strategic framework or beautifully designed presentation, it’s about the idea. What we do in agencies is about 5% of our client’s day job, so get to the solution to their business problem as quickly as you can and make sure that solution is as different and interesting as possible.

But great ideas don’t just happen, they take time and a whole load of hard work. Make sure you set time aside every day to seek out great ideas, and not just from the world of communications. Put as much effort into the planning of workshops as you do running them. Ideas breed ideas so make them a passion and one day it will pay off when you’re struggling for that killer solution.

WORK HARD [BUT GET YOURSELF OUT THERE]

I was particularly interested by a discussion taking place in one of the trade publications recently about more junior members of staff needing to put the hours in if they want to succeed in this industry. Unfortunately it’s kind of true. You need to do all you can to distinguish yourself from your peers if you want to progress and putting a shift in and creating great work is the best way you can do this.

However, remember that there is a whole world out there so don’t chain yourself to the desk 7 days a week – you need to be continually seeking creative inspiration. Work hard make but act like a creative person and make sure you do see that film, exhibition or band – innovative comms ideas can come from anywhere.

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