— On Comms Design. From London

Planning for change

Last Friday was my last day at Poke. For now. I don’t know what the far future holds but I do know what the immediate one does, and it no longer involves what remains my favourite place to work at ever. EVER.

So, this is not a “what happened” type of post. Nothing happened. Yes, the industry is going through dire straits again and yes, we’ve seen many a strategist, Strategy Director and even CSO leave with no clear plans but my leaving has nothing to do with that. I leave Poke because I’ve found something else that interests me and I think I also have identified a better place for me to explore that interest.

So this is more a post about planning for change. Actually, planning for progress, because change, as much as popular wisdom wants to convince us is always for the better, sometimes is not.

I started thinking about what I wanted to do next when I was appointed Head of Strategy. Until then, the goal had always been to be appointed Head of. I know, it sounds is a bit hollow/career-oriented but I was new to this market, new to the ad industry here, and I had to re-start my career in my late 30s which was not ideal. So for a good couple of years my plan was to climb back up the nomenclature ladder. When I was appointed Head of, I spent about a year learning and refining the intricacies of that role. Despite having a very small team, being Head of was a real challenge for me because I had always been a strategist, but now I also needed to be a manager of people who were doing the same job as me. I am not sure if I was a good Head of Strategy. One of the parting notes from my team included the following “you have been a strange boss but I am sure Poke will be worse off without you”. I guess that’s good and bad all rolled into one.

At any rate, it took me about 1 year to get comfortable and then I started looking around. I am not one to “nest” into a position. I like to have a clear path. What was my path now, I asked myself every time I had a week off.

For one, I had always been a comms planner, I was good at that. I dabbled in brand planning and, obviously, having worked at Google meant I was good at platform specifics. But Poke had a second dimension to the work they were doing which was heavily service design orientated. I was spending more and more time with UX designer and designers, workshopping journeys together, developing personas and prototyping. And I LOVED it. It probably helped that, for some reason, at about the same time, the ad world fell in love with CX, and the idea of mapping journeys and being persona centric started to enter into pretty much every conversation I was having.

I quickly did some UX Design 101 and 201 courses, started looking into content strategy (not the social content one) and began to get my head around agile vs waterfall and new ways to code for larger digital infrastructures. It took about 6 months for me to realise this was the most exciting part of my working week. I still liked doing comms but I was consumed by the enthusiasm of learning something else.

As I learned, it turned out that my comms background, combined with my workshop moderator abilities was coming in very handy. I was able to translate UX methodologies to comms planning and the other way around. Having the wider view and being able to match behavioural insights with solid audience segmentation turned out to be very interesting not just to me.

It was also becoming very apparent to me that this holistic way of thinking about digital infrastructures was more and more relevant to clients. We had been called into countless pitches where the marketing and the digital functions would butt heads and argue over requirements. Marketing budgets were no longer enough to sustain the digitisation required. And a lot of clients had very antiquated tech infrastructure that hampered their marketing goals. This was a good time to do this type of work.

So, I decided to move on, learn more and do more of this. In the coming week you’ll find out where. It’s a no-brainer choice, a company specialising in service design, able to ship fast and looking to work holistically to marry marketing and infrastructure. I’m excited. This was the plan. Fingers crossed 🙂