Thursday 31 January 2013

Being 'on strategy'

When I worked in the media and comms world, part of my role as a brand guardian of sorts was to make sure that every campaign and communication coming from the brands I looked after was on strategy, on brand.  In other words that it was true to its brand values, it was aligned with what the brand was all about, it made sense in the context of whatever else the brand was doing, it was consistent.  So, a brand purporting to be all about responsible childcare or similar probably shouldn't then sponsor 'Magaluf uncut' or something.  A brand whose main campaign is all about cooking from scratch shouldn't then appear in an article about the best ready meals. A brand about healthy living wouldn't partner with a fast food chain. For example.

I used to get really indignant when somebody suggested an activity that went against what the brand stood for, especially if the activity was being pushed for commercial reasons...a tricky balance in an essentially commercial role but a balance it must be.

Similarly it used to befuddle me when the businesses I worked for and with made business decisions that totally contradicted the very strategy we'd spent days, weeks and years fine tuning.

For me, a strategy is like a navigation tool. It helps you decide which paths to take, which decisions to make. When faced with a new opportunity the strategy gives us an excellent framework or guidelines, within which to decide whether or not to pursue that opportunity.

That was always really clear to me and I'm sure my staunch regard for 'the strategy' frustrated those around me with whom I argued frequently when 'off brand' or 'off strategy' decisions were made.

So, why then, having been so clear cut on the 'right' decisions for my clients, have I been tying myself up in knots about decisions I make for my own life?

Since leaving the world of London and corporate life behind me a few months ago I have been pondering how to write the next chapter of my story.  And I've pretty much worked out what my strategy is here. I've set out some guiding principles, I know what I want to achieve and why and where to look for it and how. I know what the important elements are and which of my values I'm looking to fulfill.

But I can't help but keep a little eye on jobs coming up in the 'old world' I used to occupy.  On the one hand this feels like a good idea, hedging my bets and all that. Should this new path not quite work out I still have something to fall back on ('fall' 'back' on...says it all). But on the other hand, not only does keeping one eye on the 'old world' mean I only have one eye left for the new world, it also means I keep torturing myself with having to make decisions about whether or not to dip my toe back into what I used to do.

For example, because I indicated I may still be in the market, a recruitment contact called me with a fantastic job that had come up. Great (very great) salary and package, travel, dream job.  I agonised for ages over it. Should I say I'm interested? I feel like I should be interested. But am I? no? Really? How about just go and see what happens? What if you say no and then end up with nothing? etc...this is me, talking to me, as is my wont.  It was really beginning to bother me and all she'd done so far was tell me about it!

my moment of clarity
And then, suddenly, as I stepped from a train onto the platform at Slough station yesterday (I would have chosen a more romantic setting for my moment of enlightenment had I had the choice), I had a real moment of clarity.

That job, amazing or not, is absolutely not, in any way whatsoever, on strategy. It does not follow any of my guiding principles.  It does not answer any of the values I have identified as being most important to me right now. It is almost the exact opposite of the new life and lifestyle I'm trying to build.

Dream job it may be. But is not my dream.

And so it's easy. There is no question, no internal debate, no dilemma.  I do not want that job. I don't even want to entertain the idea of it. There's no point. It would certainly make it easier to pay the bills, but at what price?

And, biiiiiiiiig siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. That felt very good indeed to have reached that point.

I tried to work out why something so very obvious took me so long and felt so hard and I think it's because of 3 reasons:

1. I feel a bit selfish turning down big fat high powered jobs to follow my dream of a more fulfilled life...but I'm just going to have to get over that
2. I'm scared. Scared the new thing won't work out, scared I'm making a big mistake, scared we won't be able to manage financially etc etc...but I think in this case I just have to feel that fear and do it anyway.
3. I was also scared of finally making the leap. Of fully jumping with both feet onto this new path. Of letting the old stuff go.

And that last one was the main one. I was scared of letting the old stuff go.  Never mind whether I liked or wanted the old stuff. It was my stuff. It was familiar. It was stuff I knew and could do. It was stuff I knew how to talk about and that earned me money and in which I had progressed and achieved and succeeded.

But in which I hadn't been happy.

So it's time to let it go, to get on strategy, embrace the 'new world' wholeheartedly and see where this scary new path takes me.*

*disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind should this whole new world thing not quite go to plan! but at least I'll have tried it first.


  1. Love it! We SO need to catch up sometime soon (did you get my msg last wk) x

  2. Nice article. Rings a lot of bells. Good decision.



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