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A Day In The Life

January 3, 2012

(Picture and title credit goes to The Beatles, obviously!) 

Gemma asked a little while back for some help from other planners documenting the sort of stuff we do on a day-to-day basis as part of her “Straight Talking Advice for Aspiring Planners” series.

I thought that it was only fair that I contribute, since this blog exists in large part due to one of those STAFAP posts that she wrote (think of this as my way of saying thank you!) and this is something in the way of being a 1 year anniversary of blogging.

In many ways I’m not really qualified to give advice.  Not least because I managed the unorthodox (and nearly unheard of) task of graduating and landing myself a role as a Planner straight away.  I am acutely aware that this is just not how it normally happens – so please don’t count on it.  I got really really lucky!

The following picture is also a little skewed.  I’m only two weeks into a brand new job, and a large part of my day-to-day activities have revolved around trying to remember people’s names/tea preferences (not one of my strong points) and being lost (the building is large and complicated).

But in the last two weeks (before Christmas) I have:

  • Spent a weekend visiting the big 5 supermarkets to take surreptitious photos of the category and competitor products for a pitch we’re working on.
  • Spent so long in one of the chilled aisles that staff actually came and I asked me if I was okay (real aim: observing how people were interacting with the category).
  • Mystery shopped another pitch client’s retail offer to see how they measure up to what they say they’ll do.
  • Spent about three days reading small print on websites and watching 10 years worth of ads to put together a competitor review looking at how the market dynamics have shifted and what competitors are claiming.  4 pages of tables and a fairly hefty PowerPoint document later I’ve proved what we probably already knew; everyone in that particular category is saying pretty much the same thing.
  • Waded through two Mintel reports, a segmentation study, two qual research reports and a news archive.  Gotten geekily excited about some stats.  Been told by the people I sit with to stop being boring about the stats.  Tried to make the stats look more exciting in a presentation (so other people will see why they are interesting). Failed miserably to make graphs look more creative and redrawn them just the way they were.
  • Been frustrated with Windows, because my very lovely new computer runs Office 2010 and I’ve lost the undo button, the crop button and the ‘make background invisible button’.
  • Spent a couple of days writing two creative briefs and talking them through with the creative and design teams.
  • Visited a client up in the remote Yorkshire Dales, spending 4 hours in a meeting, then 3 hours getting home because the road was snowed shut.
  • Begun to work out the logistics of getting a consumer panel set up for a client.  Tried to explain to said client why Christmas might interfere with this, because people just aren’t thinking about things normally. Agreed that after Christmas might be a good time to start the project.
  • Written and costed out three project proposals.  Realised that I’m probably being vastly optimistic in my time-frames if all three projects happen at once.  Rewritten three project proposals.
  • Sent out multiple polls to colleagues, friends and family.  Realise I may have exhausted the goodwill in this approach for a little while.  Promise to bake cupcakes before I ask any more questions.
  • Written and presented three pitches, to three clients, in three locations as far apart as London and Gateshead.

In the spirit of being helpful, and trying to give some advice to anyone who would like to be a planner, there are a couple of pieces of advice that I’ve been given over the years which might be helpful…

  1. You need to work on taking ‘I’ out of the equation. Your job is to be a conduit between the creative team / client and the people you are talking to.  Your personal opinion (cruel as it may sound) just doesn’t matter, especially to start with.  What you bring to the table about your audience does.
  2. It’s your job to make things as simple as possible.  This is bloody hard, frustrating, and it will take a long time.  Keep working at it though; there is always room for improvement.
  3. This is not a 9-5 job.  Not just because of staying late for pitches, or getting in early to clear emails.  Every minute you are awake (and sometimes when you are asleep as well) you are exposed to things that can help you and you will end up having your best ideas out of work.  Fact.  So keep a pen, paper and a camera to hand at all times.
  4. If you are finding something – a category, a client, a brief – boring, you are not doing your job right.  I’ve worked on cement, plus size catalogues for women in their 70s, artificial insemination for pigs, and paint primers.  There is something interesting about every category and every audience, and it is your job to be interested and find that thing.
  5. Follow Gemma’s advice – a blog is one of the best ways to bounce ideas off other like-minded people.  It’s also a brilliant scrapbook of facts and figures that can be called on in emergencies!

I hope that this helps, and that it gives you a bit of a flavour of what it’s like to be working as a Planner up north. Good luck and Happy New Year!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2012 9:40 am

    Thank you! I’ve popped a link on the origional post back to here. I’ll also email you re: those missing buttons in Office 2010 🙂

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  1. yet more straight talking advice for aspiring account planners (part three) « (almost) always thinking

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