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thinking / doing

When I started in this business and got my first proper job at a big London agency (there were around 30 people in creative alone – more than 10 writers. Lots of places don’t even have a writer. How do they manage?), people talked a lot about strategy.

What the feck is STRATEGY I thought? There was NO GOOGLE (imagine that!) and I didn’t want to look like a chump by ASKING! Jesus wept.

(For the record, asking is always a good idea. Period.)

So I just started talking about strategy too. And writing about it.

I was working on mostly recruitment comms so, for example, when writing a job ad for a high level exec who would not only be involved in developing and executing strategy, but who would ideally actively GET OFF ON that kind of jazz, I could really only pay short lip service to it without giving up the jig, burying it in a lowly paragraph and hoping for the best (getting away with it).

It worked out. But it wasn’t ideal. Because, long story short, it was a long-slow-shaky-forever-second-guessing-yourself-learning-curve that didn’t inspire me with confidence.

Now, through getting in and getting on and learning the hard way, I’m way far on the other side of understanding strategy. And I know it means different things in different contexts.

Strategy is an all-encompassing corporate word that all-encompasses a lot of stuff. It’s still woolly and open to interpretation. And can still mean nothing to those both inside a business or outside the business world.

Strategy is, quite simply, making a plan and planning how to do that plan: thinking then doing.

For me, developing a brand strategy involves looking at all the research, reading the brief, having a good long THINK and then the first part of the DO: writing detailed docs about differentiating brand development, pulling a business’s essential qualities from the inside out, to the surface, for clarity and to inform communications, to ascertain where they are and to get them to where they want to be, with all their people on board (the people who will do the leg work but without making it feel like hard work) and hitting the sweet spot with their community (we’re far beyond consumer) over and over again, every day of the week.


Then I DO the actual DO - my favourite bit: brainstorming creative (which starts with a mission, vision and values and translating them into ideas and headlines, content and copy) that distills that THINKING into something that resonates, makes people think “hell yeah I’ll have a bit of that” – totes emotes - whether they’re shopping for a job or a jam roll.

They quickly THINK and then they quickly DO.

Is this a lesson in getting stuck in? Doing before you’re ready? Who is ever ready? There's a bit of that. But this is more an observation in keeping things SIMPLE wherever you can. Because if I’ve learnt anything, anything at all, stuff gets complicated all on its very own.

Small businesses become big businesses by focusing on what they do and doing it well. So getting into strategy – where you go to next and how you get there – can be a big drain. Don’t get diverted.

You don’t NEED a big strategy doc to cut the mustard. Especially if you're a small business.

If you have a bigger team and you really, really, need a watertight, well thought out, all i’s dotted and all t’s crossed brand development doc that people can read to get just as excited about your brand as you, give me a shout.

In the meantime, my advice is just


Maybe review it. Get some feedback. Fine tune it.

And then


All in a way that sits well with you: fast or slow, long or short.

Don't worry about format or structure or what should or shouldn't be.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda gets nothing done.

Keep it short. Keep it Smart. Keep it on the level and in terms easily understood.

Think it. Do it.

I'd be happy to help you with that.

I think we're done here.:)