Planners Talking Planning S01E01: “Strategy” versus “Planning”

NB: This post was previously published on LinkedIn here:

The most frequent question I get asked as a planner is “what is your planning POV?”.

But the question I ask others most is: what is your POV on planning?

I started a project called Planners Talking Planning to explore this and other topics related to planning and strategy in advertising and marketing. In it, I’ve interviewed the following smart + awesome planners and strategists who were nice enough to speak to me via Google Hangouts and be filmed for the project:

Faris Yakob & Rosie Yakob (Genius Steals, Technomadix), Julian Cole (BBDO, The Planning Salon), Ryan Drumwright (FRIPPN),Sean Bonthuys (gyro), Maggie Windsor Gross (Havas), Mehdi Mollahasani(gyro), Erica Glynn (PHD Worldwide), Caitlin Bishop (McCann Erikson), Umar Ghumman (Mirum).

Each episode is structured around one of the questions I asked during our conversations.

In Episode 1, “Strategy” versus “Planning”, I explore the variations in defining the terms “strategy” and “strategist”, as well as “planner” and “planning”, across agencies and geographical markets, and whether we’ve reached a point where the terms “planning” and “planner” no longer fit the ways in which the role is evolving.

Are “strategy” and “planning” best considered separate functions?

Can one person truly excel at doing end-to-end strategy from brand through comms to social or more?

With more and more clients looking for non-advertising solutions, is “planning” the right term to use? Or is it all “Strategy” with a capitol “s”?

One of the issues here is that some people conflate the terms “strategist” and “planner”, whereas others make a clear distinction between them, aligning “strategy” with tactics, and “planning” with stewarding the brand. While I think that there is value in making a distinction between roles that focus on brand versus comms versus social etc…, I also believe that the role of a planner should not be limited to providing a strategic framework for advertising solutions alone. So is “Strategy” the best term to describe how the role of the planner is evolving?

In Canada, where budgets are much more limited than in say the US or the UK, most planning departments are so small already that there really isn’t the luxury to restrict oneself to only focusing on brand as opposed to comms solutions (if you’re not already familiar, see Julian Cole’s Slideshare “What is Comms Planning?” for a great breakdown of how these two roles differ). In addition, most clients in Canada would find it difficult to justify the budget for both a brand and a comms planner on their account.

For myself as a freelancer, my approach has been to do enough discovery work ahead of committing to a project so that I balance taking on briefs that I know I can deliver great work on, against not restricting myself to generating the same type of solution across every project, and in this way allow myself to push the boundaries of my role as I continue to develop my skill-set.

A big part of this involves defining my role for my clients upfront in such a way that they are open to me making non-advertising recommendations. What does this mean in practice? Ensuring that there’s sufficient flexibility built in to my client agreements that a pre-determined deliverable doesn’t become the only output possible (thanks, Rosie, for this tip!); this is of course contingent on my clients trusting that I’m ultimately working to find the solution that best serves their business problems, so part of my criteria for whether I will take a project on is whether that level of trust has been established during my initial conversations with potential clients.

Find out what Maggie Windsor Gross, Julian Cole, as well as Faris and Rosie Yakob had to say in Planners Talking Planning, Episode 1, here:

In case you missed the series teaser I uploaded earlier this month, you can find it here:

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