Be A Little Uncomfortable

Wanted to share a very interesting and eye opening day I had.

A client of ours held a “Brand Summit” where all the agencies were asked to come in to discuss how to best align marketing, communication and branding efforts into one platform.

When I first heard about the fact that, indeed, what I perceived as my rivals and I would all be in the same room together, I immediately went into full blown “ego” mode.  There was no way the rooster in me was going to sit quietly.  The initial thought was I needed to come in demonstrate how smart we are, show all our successes to date and strive for global agency dominance.  This was not to be the case.

I came to find out that one of the agencies was a part of the WCG web and currently engaged in partnership with us on several pieces of business.  We set up a call prior to the meeting to discuss the state of the state on both sides.  It was instant chemistry.  I started the call by saying that we need to do this for “our” client, not for us.  If we showed a united front with only the client’s best interest in mind it could prove a win/win for us both.  By making it about the client it almost instantly brought a certain sense of purpose to this odd encounter and both of us left the call enthusiastically optimistic about what a potential outcome would look like.

The day began with the moderator the client hired (ring leader, cage match ref, judge… whatever) reading the phrase from a large poster, “FOR THE GOOD OF (CLIENT NAME)”. It was grounding, direct, and uniting. We spent the next six hours sharing ideas, discussing strategies, evaluating tactics, agreeing, disagreeing, laughing and ultimately coming to a consensus. We all shared one thing in common, DELIVERING the very best possible experience for our customers. We agreed that both the physician and the patient deserve to have the most relevant information at their disposal in order to make, what was in this case, a life changing clinical decision. It was up to us to insure this message was reaching them all. Regardless of the channel, we must have a united way of speaking as it is the ONLY way a true conversation continuum can ever be successful. Simply put, when patients see an ad, read some editorial or learn something online, and then walk into a doctor’s office, they better damn well be hearing the same thing. In other words –no light between the messaging.  Many companies approach marketing in silos when there should essentially only be one conversation. Ultimately, it’s the channel that changes not the conversation platform. Because individuals do check to see what others are talking about, especially online, companies should work to insure conversations with their respective audiences utilize “one voice.”

“Enlightening” is the only word that comes to mind in describing the day in review. On many fronts it was eye opening to witness that even in 2010, many communicators view themselves as tacticians not creative thinkers. Many are afraid of change because that means letting go of the old. In doing so, it also means what got them here may not get them there. When the momentum in the room slowed or changed it was always for one reason –someone made it about themselves and that’s when fear crept back in. When it was redirected to the “objective” it suddenly became freeing to imagine what was possible because the current state was replaced by the desired state. We focused on solutions, not problems, resulting in the agencies agreeing to develop one brand/messaging platform, focus on programs not campaigns, develop a true push-pull strategy, focus on brand not branding, create a clear open dialog and, yes, even have some fun doing it together. Imagine that!  Our client and the moderator were blown away at the level of positive engagement we all demonstrated. They were more than complimentary, they said it was exemplary. And it was truly exemplary of the client to bring us all together in the first place!

We all have a lot to learn from each other, if we are open minded, check our egos at the door and are willing to be a little uncomfortable doing it for the first time. Clients are seeking leadership from individuals and agency partners that think creatively and provide impactful solutions that can change their business. This applies to every one of us. Remember that creative is very different than thinking creatively. It lies within each of us, ready to be tapped when we look for answers to complex or even simple problems. I went from “let’s take them down” to “let’s do what’s right,” because I was willing to be a little uncomfortable with the outcome.  Next time you’re in a meeting think to yourself, “do I want to be right or do I want to be effective.”

Make it about the customer, put your passion behind the experience and watch the change happen.

Go. Ahead.

Paulo Simas
Paulo Simas

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