I just had a quick chat with Earl Cox, head of Planning and partner at the Martin Agency- and those 30 minutes were ripe with valid points for anyone else putting together their book right now.
Why Some Books Sit On Desks:
“Most of the books are too dense, overwritten. Eliminate. Because when I’m flipping through a book I’m looking for three things:
I. AN insight. Not several insights, because then it’s just a recap of research.
Boil it down. “Planning is the art of synthesis and distillation. It requires a great deal of confidence. There’s an expression: ‘Often wrong, but never in doubt.” Sometimes you gotta be a little cocky. That’s what I’m paying you for: a strongly held opinion well argued.”
II. Is that single insight expressed imaginatively in the strategy?
III. Then, is the creative work actually built from that strategy?
Because I see so many books with a brilliant strategy but then the work that follows looks great but has nothing to do with the insight.
Books with Fat Heartstrings:
“Be very weary of movements.”
“I see a lot of books with 4 different campaigns and each one- claims to ‘save the world.’ It’s great to have a conscious and our business doesn’t always have the best reputation- but you have to remember we’re seeing book after book with campaigns declaring that this claim will forever revolutionize ‘_______.’
Remember clients pay us to sell things. Everything ties back to Wall Street. Stockholder Value.”
The Premature Furrowed Brow:
–I’ve been feeling off-kilter lately because I’m putting my book + resume together to apply for internships. Which means I’m looking at all my work through the premature anxiety of knowing I’m going to be either approved or dismissed by it.
After I told Earl this, he recounted how a woman he had just met at a cocktail party summed our business up in 2 seconds: “Your is a business where people try to find their self-esteem in their jobs.”
He went on to say:
“Self esteem has to come from inside.”
Don’t sink yourself waiting on external approval. “At my level, there’s no more Atta-Boys and Promotions- it’s just what’s expected of me. I had to go through that introspective period to realize that. Stop worrying.”
Mike Mattdox, a Brandcenter alum gave a lecture to a class- and one of the students asked Mike ‘what he would have done differently during his 2 years at the Brandcenter knowing what he knows now.’ Mike quickly replied:
“I WOULD HAVE TAKEN MORE RISKS”
Earl added, “the good planners and creatives know how to be provocative. It’s just what stands out. Doing what you think the client wants isn’t what they remember after watching 8 presentations on the same thing.
If you’re going to be meek in this industry- why bother?
Planning is the Thought Leadership Department.
“As a planner- you are a catalyst. You have to be prepared to lead a team based on an idea that you can defend against all others.”
Even though Earl is frequently the 2nd busiest person at the Martin Agency behind Mike Hughes- he always makes time for students. His dedication to the industry and commitment to nurturing talent is something you need to see for yourself. If you are interested in the Brandcenter – definitely make it a point to schedule an appointment with Earl while you’re in Richmond.
Best of Luck on Your Book!
** You may agree/disagree with his POV- but at least considering seasoned thoughts from a renown planning professional can’t hurt.