Spurred on by this tweet, I thought I'd jot down a few things I think are good pointers to either a) Get into Planning; or b) Be a better Planner.
(I think I've written similar articles in the past, but can't be bothered to see if this contradicts them to be honest...)
Anyway, all of them can be categorised: One Step Beyond.
And in keeping with the music metaphor, I've offered 7 opinions - one for every inch of vinyl.
1) One Step Beyond experiencing
It's imperative for all of us that we know what's going on in the industry and we have a decent grasp of who is saying what, when, and why.
But, don't just experience activity and watch ads. Watch other people as they experience them. You see, it's one thing to see what's going on, but it's quite another observing how that thing impacts on society. So next time you go past a billboard, don't just look at it, look at others looking at it. Next time you see a trend on Twitter, don't just look at the thing people are sharing, look at the profiles of the people sharing.
2) One Step Beyond admiration
We all see work we think is good. It might be great strategically, great creatively, or it might be in the perfect media channels. Well, if you're someone trying to get into Planning or if you're a Planner looking to speak to a new business client, you need to do more than admire work. If you see work you think is good, think about how you could make it better and let the relevant people know.
If you want to work for that agency, find some of their work and show them how you'd make it better - creatively or strategically. If you want to work with that brand, find some of their activity and show them how you'd like to improve it.
3) One Step Beyond reading
As this post exemplifies, we're not backwards in coming forwards as an industry. We're all chomping at the bit to share our opinion - be it on blogs or in traditional media. Well, if you see a viewpoint you agree or disagree with, pen a response with your reasoning why. Even if you don't send it this is a great exercise that helps you build up skills of forming arguments and using evidence to support your case. We're in an age where we can find and converse with people across the globe instantly. The internet has truly democratised communications between people, and whether they like it or not, you can probably find the email address of the person you want to share your opinion with.
4) One Step Beyond geography
As I just touched on, everything around us is instant and accessible. That means we can talk with people, learn from people, and challenge people wherever they are on earth. I find that truly exciting. I can read the press anywhere on earth, and respond to the relevant person instantly. And that doesn't have to be an email. It could be a face to face chat on Skype, by sharing images on Instagram or by having a conversation in public on a blog. Bored of reading the same old stuff? Pick a country and look at their press, look at what's going on in their world and learn something new.
5) One Step Beyond brands
A good client knows their brand inside out. A good Planner can either better that knowledge, or they can provide essential objectivity. You see, I think a lot of clients inevitably become Brand Blind. This is a term I've originated myself, but I think it's true. They spend about twelve hours a day, about six days a week inside that brand, surrounded by that brand and consumed by that brand. They notice it more in daily life, they talk about it, and they know and understand the machinations which drive it internally. Well, unfortunately for them, most people on earth have either never heard of their brand, or don't give a shit about their brand. In my mind a good Planner should provide that objectivity, and should think beyond the brand and think about where, how and why that brand sits in society as a whole. In the daily life of people. Of culture. Of societies. Don't think outwards from the brand, think outwards from society.
6) One Step Beyond silos
Traditional agency models are broken. Modern agency models are broken.
The world is moving so quick that the success of any business model is dictated by the inherent flexibility it has at its core. Mr Perkin would call this agile.
Within any system or model are silos. They might be explicit or implicit, but there are silos. Traditionally the Planner's silo was to dig around to find the insight, then inspire the creatives to come up with a big idea. I think that's only part of the Planner's role, and those boundaries should be flexible. If you've written the proposition to inspire a creative idea, have a think about some creative ideas yourself. If you've got an idea you want to sell into a client, start planting the seeds with the Account Team so they can lay the foundations with the client for you. Don't just sit in the Planning Department, have your head in other departments too.
7) One Step Beyond work
Planning doesn't stop at 6pm, and it doesn't stop in the office. Planning is a way of life, a way of living and a viewpoint on the world. In my mind, anything you espouse in the office should be carried into your private life too.
The cliché of being interested and interesting, unfortunately is true. (I just hate clichés OK?)
So for me it's all about travel, writing and exploring. I always want to learn more. I always want to do things I haven't done before. I always want to be excited about a place, a thing, an experience. I want to travel every inch of this beautiful world of ours. I want to get every thought in my head on paper, either in words, in charts, or in pictures. I want to explore everything from music to film; from food to beer; from people to isolation. It's all out there, and we can touch it whenever we want.
To misquote Samuel Johnson, "When a Planner is tired of going One Step Beyond, he is tired of life."