For Canada Day weekend I went on an amazing three day, two night hike with a few friends.
For Canada Day weekend I went on an amazing three day, two night hike with a few friends.
For Canada Day weekend I went on an amazing three day, two night hike with a few friends.
I’ve had great success holding workshops with clients to develop brand plans, build digital strategies, kick off projects, and plan campaigns.
Workshops can eliminate our two most common barriers: inefficiency and misalignment.
Think about how long it typically takes to get planning and strategy off the ground. One week’s worth of feedback easily stretches into two. Revisions eat up a third, just in time for that crucial client to go on vacation for a fourth. A well-planned workshop can accomplish more in one day than constant rounds of emails would in a month.
Alignment on the client’s side is another common pain point. Nobody wants to go back to the drawing board when the head of operations finally gets looped in and vetoes the whole direction. Holding a workshop ensures that all the relevant voices are heard in a way that enables dialogue, well before the wheels are put into motion. When everyone feels they’ve had a say in the output of the workshop, they stay invested in the plan they made together.
So, what does a successful workshop look like? Here are ten rules I employ to ensure my sessions with clients are fruitful.
1. Get the right people in the room
A workshop is an amazing opportunity to pull knowledge from other people aside from your immediate clients or the marketing team. Sales, technology and operations will have insights into the company and its customers that will help round out discussion in the room, and will expedite alignment later on.
2. Have a plan
A workshop isn’t an open-ended brainstorm. A successful workshop has an objective, a desired output, and a plan for how to get there.
Each component of the workshop should have a purpose, and you should know what the output is going to be from it. Even introductory/”ice-breaker” activities should directly relate to the goal.
I typically provide attendees an agenda of the workshop beforehand, but only with the names of the different components and approximate timings. I keep a printout of my fully detailed plan in front of me during the session, with my notes on the exact process/directions I want to follow for each component.
3. Get rid of technology
A workshop is a chance for a group of people to interact with each other without distractions. I often insist on a “no laptops or phones” rule, but let the room know they’ll be able to check email and put out fires during the breaks. And for the most part, people actually enjoy the rare luxury of being away from their devices.
Likewise, I rarely use more than two or three slides at the start of the workshop to set the scene. I keep time on a wristwatch, make my notes in a notebook, and consult the detailed agenda I’ve printed out.
4. Everyone does homework
Giving your workshop attendees a homework assignment puts them in the right frame of mind to tackle the workshop objective. It’s also a chance for them to do some thinking in advance.
The homework doesn’t have to be complicated. Some things that work for me are to have them bring in a object that they feel represents their company (currently or in the future), write a description of who they think the most important audience/customer is, or make a list of five adjectives describing how they see their company.
I do the homework too, which also includes having a very good understanding of my clients’ business, the problems they face, and their customers. Ideally, I have time for at least a few weeks of discovery that includes customer research and stakeholder interviews.
5. Throw out the plan
Not entirely, of course; but be flexible. When a great discussion unfolds, don’t halt the progress. Feel free to keep it going regardless of your original time estimate. When I build my workshop agenda, I allocate 15% of the total time to contingency. This gives me the flexibility to let certain components run long. It’s also not a big deal if we don’t use it - no one ever complains about ending a bit early or having a bit of extra time in their day.
By the same token, if one of the components you’ve planned isn’t quite working, don’t force it - just move on to what’s next (and maybe have an alternate activity in your back pocket, just in case).
6. Have a point of view
The workshop is about pulling out information and getting opinions from the participants – and that includes you. You’re walking into the room with your own hypothesis, and your point of view has value. There’s no need to force your thinking on the clients, but attendees are more likely to elaborate on their own opinions when you can follow or steer their line of thinking.
7. Don’t solve everything in the room
A workshop is only the first step, and it can be easy to get bogged down in specifics during the session. Don’t let this happen, and remind the room regularly that you don’t need to solve everything today. Your job as the moderator is to make sure that the strategies are captured. The finer points will be finessed in your post-workshop recap.
8. Take Breaks
Big discussions can be taxing on everyone. Breaks give people time to relax a bit, absorb what’s been said, think about what else they want to add to the talks, and of course check their phones.
During these breaks, push coffee and water on the participants to help keep energy levels up. If I’m working with a food/beverage client, I’ll try to order food from both them and their competitors. Beer and wine is a great idea for the last break of the session, or when wrapping up.
9. Wind it down
I aim to build in 30 minutes at the end of the workshop for a wrap up. It’s a chance for the attendees to sit back and reflect on what they’ve discussed while I give them an overview of my notes. This is a good opportunity to read some body language to gauge what parts excited them or were less useful.
I thank them for their time and give them timelines for next steps, and as they’re packing up, I like to close my notebook and have a more casual chat with them. What did they like? What are they expecting to see next? Since the workshop is effectively over, they’re more likely to be candid about their feelings. I find this step to be one of the most valuable.
10. Follow Up
I present my refined notes from the workshop within a week of the session. This ensures everything is still fresh in the minds of the attendees, and keeps forward momentum on the project. The follow-up is a recap of what was agreed on, or the most important points of the workshop. It’s not simply typing up the minutes of a meeting, and it often requires quite a bit of wordsmithing to solve all those problems that you promised you wouldn’t solve in the room.
A well-run workshop gets you to a better place of strategic output in less time than you would with an endless email back-and-forth. If you want more information about how a workshop can bring more efficiency and alignment to your company’s strategic solutions, drop me an email.
Almost a year ago I came up with the idea for an epic one-day mission on Maui: Hike from sea level to the top of Haleakala, a dormant volcano with a summit at 10,000 feet, then ride a bike down the paved roads on the other side, almost 80km, back to where my parents live.
Last week, I made it happen.
On Friday, I rented a bike and drove it up to the to the summit, then went to bed super early that night.
On Saturday morning, I woke up at 4:00am and got picked up at 4:30am.
Some notes on this hike:
I had 3.5 litres of water with me - it wasn’t enough. I’d recommend much more than that if you’re doing this hike.
The hike from Kaupo General Store into the crater is absolutely brutal - much of the trail is like an old ATV trail with big, loose rocks (I’m used to New Zealand and British Columbia, where the trails are in much better condition!) I chalk this up to this section being rarely used.
Use a a map app! I used Gaia GPS, and made sure I had a map of the region downloaded. There were a few sections where the trail was hard to find.
I really felt the elevation/altitude at the end - the last 500m of elevation were some of the toughest I’ve done.
In the midst of all the forest fire smoke a few weeks ago my friend and I took a Tuesday off work to hike to Wedgemount Lake.
Vancouver Trails describes it as "the most difficult hike in Garibaldi" and a "gruelling trek" with "spectacular scenery."
I was into it.
All in, it took us about five hours round trip (though that was with lots of stops for photos and lunch).
I'd really recommend this hike - it's probably even more beautiful on a clear day.
Every once in a while things line up for the opportunity to take the trip of a lifetime. In this case, it was the combination of a flexible work schedule and my friend Amir living in Beirut.
I'd never really had a huge interest in visiting the Middle East (or Eurasia),
During the Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada, I drove down to Washington State to go ski touring with a couple of friends.
It was one of the tougher trips I've done (that said, it feels like every trip we do is the toughest one I've done!) and really pushed me out of my comfort zone.
It was an unbelievable trip, and there was no way I could have done it without Ty and Pete planning, leading and guiding me through it.
I'm glad I pushed through and made the summit for no other reason than the sense of accomplishment.
A few months after I started working in advertising, I was at a party and met a friend of a friend who had been in the industry for years.
"You'll be lucky if you see one thing you worked on get made per year," he told me.
He went on to clarify that what he meant was that it was rare to see things get made the way you as a creative or strategist truly envisioned them. The journey from idea to finished project is a long one, with lots of hurdles in the way in the form of feedback (client and internal), cost, changing business needs and production along the way.
Even if something does get made, there's not guarantee you'll actually see it in any a reasonable timeframe. Especially if you leave the agency and/or country, and the actual product has a niche or internal audience.
One example of this is Pfizer Caremate, an app that helps advanced stage renal cancer patients manage their treatment, symptoms and issues. I worked on it while I was the Lead Digital Strategist at DDB New Zealand in Auckland almost 3 years ago, and only just learned (via Campaign Brief) that it's gone live (I suspect the long delay has to do with the legal and regulatory approvals that come with creating anything in the pharmaceutical/healthcare space).
This is one of those projects that was hard to work on, but that I'm equally happy we did. As the strategist, I conducted a number of interviews with health care professionals to learn more about the symptoms and treatment, and while this isn't a cure it's something that will help.
There's more from the Campaign Brief article, featuring my old colleague Hayden Kerr, here:
Caremate is a digital platform designed to help those with advanced renal cancer take control of their treatment. The digital format makes adhering to their programme and monitoring their condition easy and convenient regardless of where they are, ultimately helping them achieve better treatment outcomes.
Pfizer manufactures a leading medication for renal cancer patients. The Caremate programme was prompted by research gathered by Pfizer NZ in an effort to understand how to improve the lives of renal cancer patients and go beyond medication with comprehensive care.
DDB Digital NZ creative director, Haydn Kerr, says that while a creative agency developing a digital app to support patients taking a medicine may sound unusual, using creativity and empathy to solve a medical problem makes a world of sense.
Says Kerr: "At DDB we believe our role is to create real-world solutions for the businesses we serve. Caremate is an innovative new programme that does just that, and we're proud to work with Pfizer NZ to bring it to life for those in need."
The Caremate app and its support pack work together to remind patients to take their medication, record their blood pressure, mood and symptoms on a daily basis while tracking their treatment. It also provides guidance on how to deal with symptoms they may be experiencing.
Healthcare professionals can access the data from the app during patient visits to obtain a more accurate overview of how the treatment has been working and a better understanding of how to optimise it.
With a host of success stories in both New Zealand and Australia, Pfizer is now assessing how Caremate could be employed globally for other diseases where patients face similar challenges.
For Kerr, the fact that Caremate is already being used daily by patients to manage their treatment is immensely rewarding.
Says Kerr: "We produce work all the time to help businesses achieve their goals, whatever they may be, but to see something like this out there helping people and know that, with the weight of Pfizer behind it, it might go on to help many, many more people -- it's a very cool thing to see and an amazing thing to be a part of."
They say that the hardest thing in the world to give up is a regular paycheque, but that working for yourself is incredibly rewarding. Having quit a fairly good job on a steady career trajectory (with the associated steady paycheque) to strike out on my own in a new city about two years ago, I can say that that is definitely the case. (I'll probably write another blog post about the experience of working for myself at some point soon).
It's been an interesting journey, and one of the pluses has been the flexibility to pursue some athletic activities and knock off a few accomplishments.
Although I grew up skiing in the Rocky Mountains just outside of Calgary, I spent most of the last ten years chasing waves around the world. When I moved to Vancouver, I knew I wanted to do more mountain stuff, but didn't envision that it would include skiing UP a 10,000 foot volcano, sleeping on a glacier and skiing down it the next day.
it was the hardest trip I've ever done, but also the best.
I've been training BJJ for a few years, and have competed before (a mix of last place and silver medal finishes), but November at the Vancouver Open was the first time I won the gold (and was an entire weight-class lighter than the guys I competed against). My coach said I won my matches by "the thinnest of margins," but a win is a win, and gold feels pretty good after a lot of hard work.
It's not quite as exciting as the other accomplishments, but to me it's massive, and enough to put me way above the 90th percentile of the types of people who record these things.
If you've ever tried a 2k erg, no matter what your time, you'll know how gruelling it can be. Men's Health magazine describes it as a "test of psychological will."
(I also pulled a 3m11s 1000m, but definitely think I can improve on that).
I turn 36 in a few months, and am already looking forward to what I'll accomplish in the next year.
After seeing a few photos from friends of an incredible green lake hidden in the mountains, I knew that I wanted to hike there.
I took a Tuesday in the middle of the week for the trip to avoid the crowds, and made the drive up to Squamish. The trailhead was about an 40 minute drive down a logging road near the Sea-To-Summit Gondola.
Not much more to add at this point, except it was a great afternoon of trail running and hiking.
One weekend last summer, a few friends and I drove out to Whistler on an early Saturday morning, took the chairlifts to the top of the mountain then hiked into the back country.
It was a pretty good way to spend a weekend with some great friends.
Check out more of the hikes and scrambles I've done in the past little while at the Explore section on BlogCampaigning.
Tricouni Peak - about 40 minutes from Squamish, British Columbia - has been on my friend Ty's bucket list for years. He's attempted the summit a few different times (on foot and skis) but told me that each time he was turned back by weather, conditions, snow or timing.
A few weeks ago he asked me to join him to try it again on what was probably the last non-rainy day of the season.
It was a long day, but definitely worth it.
And I'm beyond excited for Blade Runner 2049 (the only reason I haven’t seen it yet is because I’ve committed to going with a group of friends and the first time everyone is available isn’t for another few days).*
The original Blade Runner was always one of my favourite movies, and seeing it again on a beautiful HD TV screen last week reminded me of how groundbreaking and beautiful it was. And it also reminded me of how influential it was. It was one of the first examples of the cyberpunk genre being truly brought to life, and the pieces of art that came after it or at the same time were hugely influential on how we view and use computers and technology today.
So I put together this (non-definitive) list of books, movies and more that owe at least a bit to the original Blade Runner. I’ve probably missed your favourite book, and there are probably some that you’ll argue shouldn’t be included.
Note that I also say "Blade Runner" rather than "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," the book upon which it was based. That's because as good of an author as Phillip K. Dick was, and as ground-breaking as ""Do Androids..." was I don't think either the author or the original story would have had nearly as much fame as they do today if it hadn't been for the film becoming such a cultural hit. Up until that point, cyberpunk was a relatively obscure (though growing) genre of science-fiction literature that was dealing with the creeping intrusion of technology into our lives and resulting isolation. Worlds, concepts and stories had been fleshed out by authors like Dick, John Shirley (City Come A Walkin', 1981), Alfred Bester and George Alec Effinger (see below), but it took the Blade Runner film to really give us the visual texture and iconic "high-tech, low-life" look of and feel of the cyberpunk genre.
So what defines the genre? For me, the core component is a world where technology can possibly replace part or all of everything a human is, from body parts to thinking processes, ultimately asking the question what it means to human. Well that could describe a lot of sci-fi, it's that "low-life" aspect of it that puts it in it's own genre: isolated, marginalised or countercultural characters are at the forefront. Hackers don't necessarily reign supreme, but the symbolize independence and anti-authority sentiment. There's "dirt in the corners," as William Gibson puts it and, many of his contemporaries were heavily influenced by the punk rock of the 70s and 80s. Rudy Rucker, considered one of the founders of the literary movement, compared it to punk music in that both were informationally dense, cared more about being interesting than in conventions.
So, back to my list:
Neuromancer by William Gibson is the obvious choice for inclusion - the 1982 book was a defining piece of the "cyberpunk" genre. Case's Chiba City could have been Deckard's Los Angeles without almost a single change, and it captured a combination of the gritty, marginalised characters on the edges of society with bigger questions about what it meant to be human, artificial or otherwise. While it probably wasn't directly "inspired" by Blade Runner (author William Gibson famously avoided watching the film while he was writing Neuromancer because he was worried it was too close to what he was writing), the fact that the two came out at almost the same time is in itself significant. The way that Case, the main character (I wouldn’t necessarily call him a “hero”) accessed the internet in the book (diving in, jacking in) heavily influenced the way it was portrayed in countless other movies and shows afterwards, particularly Ghost in the Shell (which I go into further down) and The Matrix, both of which were hugely influential in their own right. With Neuromancer and some of his other early books, Gibson gave us the vocabulary of the near-future.
The Maurid Audrain books by George Alec Effinger (AKA: "The Budyadeen Cycle: When Gravity Fails, A Fire In The Sun, and The Exile Kiss") is one of my favourite series, and one that will stay with you long after reading it. It follows titular character Maurid Audrain in a futuristic middle-east, and has familiar cyberpunk themes of altered personalities due to invasive technology along with characters and settings at the edge of society. The books are an acknowledgement that some of the most interesting impacts and use-cases of technology won’t happen in established cities or in North America, but will more likely happen in developing nations and on the fringes.
But if it's the guns and action side of cyberpunk you like, you're probably better off reading the Takeshi Kovacs books by Richard Morgan.
(I know i should probably at least mention Snow Crash on here, but I don't think I really enjoyed it as much as other people. The fact that the main character's name is "Hiro Protagonist" really annoyed me).
(And if you really went to get deeper into the layers of literary influence, the term “Blade Runner” itself comes from an earlier science-fiction book about the future of health care in America. )
if you want to see what Blade Runner would have looked like as a video game, Hideo Kojima’s SNATCHER is your best bet. The plot follows Gillian Seed, doing his best Harrison Ford impersonation with brown trench coat, oversized handgun and lonely life as a JUNKER, whose job is to hunt down and destroy SNATCHERS, aka robots who are able to look like humans.
The plot and images might sound derivative, but the game was instrumental in launching Kojima’s career. His later Metal Gear games, though with the tagline "Tactical Espionage Action," had deep and convoluted plots about implanted memories, cloned humans and cybernetic implants. The games are famous for breaking the fourth wall, drawing attention to the fact that you’re playing a game yet at the same time blurring the lines between the virtual game world and reality. Examples of this are when the game forces you to unplug your control and plug it into the second port so that you can defeat an enemy with psychic/mind-reading powers, and again when an artificial intelligence within the game attempts to stop you from defeating another boss by telling you that you’ve been playing for too long, and should put down the controller.
Shadowrun, though, is probably a closer stylistic relative to Blade Runner. Everything from the rainy streets, neon signs and seedy, gritty city seems almost like it was pulled directly from Deckard’s Los Angeles. The game was released on Steam a few years ago, and is based off of the pen and paper RPGof the same name from the 80s. The basic premise is that you’re the leader of a crew of mercenaries who take on jobs ranging from corporate security to hacking, except there are also demons, elves and trolls. And magic. It’s a bit of a leap, but it actually works.
However stylistically perfect the game is, it stops short of asking the bigger thematic questions that cyberpunk does well, about the nature of humanity or the role technology plays in our live. It’s fun and visually interesting, but ultimately shallow.
(Yes, I know that Cyberpunk 2077 is probably a better example of a game in the genre but considering it’s been in development for years and doesn’t have a confirmed release date means it’s probably vapourware at this point. And there was also a Blade Runner game, but I haven’t heard anything good about it. )
Ghost in the Shell remains one of my favourite movies, and recent viewings of both it and Blade Runner remind me of just how much the former owes to the latter. At the surface, it’s the same 21st century cyberpunk city with it's katakana and kanji neon signs shining brightly through rain-soaked streets.
But the similarities go further than that: Section 9, the quasi-governmental agency for which the main characters in Ghost in the Shell work, is also a good stand-in for Blade Runners. Both are tasked with reigning in or otherwise dealing with rogue intelligences. Ghost in the Shell's Kusanagi and Blade Runner's Deckard both live solitary, isolated lives. They've got hobbies, sort of. But nothing beyond that. And at the end we’re left not really being sure how much of them was truly human, and what that means to the bit of soul (or “ghost”) we saw in each of them.
The parallel scenes of characters coming to grips with implanted memories (Leon in Blade Runner, the garbage man in GitS) make you realize this is something more - and that even the main characters might not be exactly as they seem.
The live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell is worth watching, also. The plot is a bit different, and it doesn’t get quite as deep but it’s visually almost perfect. Watch the original anime, then watch the remake just for the shot-by-shot comparisons.
Likewise, Chappie takes us on a familiar journey: escaped Artificial Intelligence living on the fringes of society is hunted down by the megacorporation that created it. Where Chappie works is by giving heart and soul to a much more machine-like "shell" than the replicants that live on the other side of the uncanny valley. The garish colours and “gangster” aesthetic that Die Antwoord bring to Chappie’s life and their role as his caretakers are a perfect evolution of the punk-inspired cyberpunk of the 80s.
If you’re still with me on this list, it’s worth exploring the world of Archillect for two reasons. The first is that the imagery posted on Archillect’s social channels is, at times, heavily cyberpunk inspired. The second is that Architect itself is almost almost an intelligent artefact. Is Archillect an art object itself? An artist? Or a semi-autonomous curator? I think that all three can be true, but your opinion will likely vary.
You might notice that most of the examples I’ve provided above are older. I don’t think any are from ideas that came anytime after the mid-90s (Chappie might be the exception, but it can be excused because it so perfectly captures then evolves upon its predecessors). And that’s because cyberpunk is essentially a dead genre. At best, it’s mired in nostalgia. We’re too far past the initial exploratory period of how technology will infiltrate society. The technology of cyberpunk, though based on code, was always physically invasive: jacking into the net via wires in Ghost in the Shell and Neuromancer. The mechanical clicking of Deckard's equipment as he runs another Voight-Kampf test. It all seems old-fashioned in an age of ubiquitous wifi, wireless charging and the sea of information at everyone's fingertips via mobile phones.
Instead, cyberpunk been replaced by a cleaner, more polished vision of the future. Ex Machina is a perfect example of this, as are the more modern William Gibson stories. Even The Avengers films, with Jarvis, the Vision and Ultron as various sides of the Artificial Intelligence coin. They're still asking those same questions about what defines a human or intelligence, but without some of the dirt, grime and noir of cyberpunk.
It’s still worth reading science-fiction, even the older cyberpunk stuff. The “present” is becoming “the future” at a rate far faster than ever before. Science-fiction doesn’t give us answers. But it provides frameworks for understanding the way technology will change, how it will impact society, and how it will affect what it means to be human.
If you stuck with this post all the way to the end, you might also a list of my favourite science-fiction books.
*I've since watched Blade Runner 2049. Twice. It was amazing both times, and deserves a post itself.
It was a pretty amazing summer here on the West (best?) Coast. Below is a mostly-chronological recap of May-September. Yes, there was a lot of snow (and some ski-touring!).
I’ve spent the latter half of my career working extensively with colleagues, teams and clients across the country or around the world. Recently, it’s mostly just been myself working from Vancouver with a team based in Toronto. In other positions, I’ve worked on everything from projects with multiple teams (clients, developers, designers, sales) around the world to situations where I was part of a team collaborating with a single remote worker.
Below are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. Some of these might be basic project management skills (and thus the responsibility of a Project Manager or Producer to know and manage), but they’re applicable to anyone working remotely or with clients/team members in a different city. Not all are applicable to every project.
At the start of the project, ensure that everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities, including what they are expected to deliver and how. While this might not be known at the very first kick-off meeting or project, work to quickly establish it and send out a message that outlines these roles. For larger projects, or ones with two teams working together, establish a Single Point Of Contact for each team. The SPOC will be the person through which information flows and will be responsible for scheduling and keeping their team up to date.
At the same time, establish which tools or resources will be used for the project, and how they should be used. For example:
As soon as possible, establish an Operating Rhythm. This will vary immensely depending on the project requirements, timelines and team members, but setting a regular schedule will help the team and project stay on track. Regular check-ins will also ensure that team members have a forum to ask questions or otherwise voice concerns that might be left to linger or which can cause problems down the road.
In a regular office environment, it’s easier to see when colleagues are busy/overwhelmed, or when they have capacity. When working remotely, this is often difficult to see but an established operating rhythm can identify these issues.
Conversations are great, but at some point in the process one team is going to have to present to another. My recommendation is to use a tool called Join.me - of all the screen-sharing pieces of technology, it’s the easiest and most reliable to use. The presenter just has to download the free tool, while on the other end the team viewing the presentation only has to go to the join.me website and enter a code provided by the presenter. I strongly recommend ensuring that the presenter maintains control over what is on screen using screen-sharing tools like this, rather than the "Okay, we're on page six of the PDF - is everyone on that page?" type of calls we've all been on.
As much as everything can be done electronically via email, shared documents, instant (and non-instant) messages, a personal connection can. Whenever possible, try and make time to meet your counterparts in different areas of the world. For larger projects, the cost of travel for an in-person kick-off meeting will be offset by the bonds and relations formed during these connections, and the way that this facilitates the project going forward.
What am I missing here? What else would you add to these list of recommendations?
On Saturday a couple of friends and I did a pretty epic hike.
All in, it was an incredible hike. Ty even made the summit (J-Dub and I hung back the last little stretch because we didn't feel like scrambling) and we completed the 27.6 km and ~1700m of elevation in about 6.5 hours, getting to the car just it was getting dark at about 9pm.
According to the sidebar here on BlogCampaigning, this blog is normally about "advertising, technology, public relations, social media, video games and pretty much whatever we feel is important."
I'm in the midst of putting together a workshop for some clients based on the Google Ventures 3 Hour Brand Sprint, but felt that it didn't go into quite enough detail for some of the components.
In the process of adapting it, I came across a "Circles of Influence" exercise (in the Hyper Island Toolbox). This felt like a good start for understanding audiences, but I also wanted to extend it for the particular brand workshop I'm planning and wanted to go deeper into some details and so added on to it. (The Circles of Influence exercise itself is based on a more personal/leadership exercise by Stephen Covey)
Objective: To uncover insights about target audience influences, concerns and the role a brand/organisation/product/service may have in their life.
Time: 20-40 minutes (depending on number of people, complexity.
Note: Although this can be conducted as a stand-alone session, I think it ideally works alongside other workshop activities to help define key audiences and even (re)define what the brand/organisation/product/service actually does and why.
How It Works:
1.) The room is divided up into smaller groups (2-3), and each group is assigned a key audience (ideally, these audiences are identified and agreed upon during a previous part of the workshop).
For our example, let's pretend that the brand we're working on is a residential real estate agency, and that one of their audiences is Home Buyer in a large North American city.
2.) First, each group is asked to take out the Circles of Concern page (Worksheet I) in the PDF below. The Moderator gives them about 5 minutes to write down all the things that they think this audience might be concerned about, particularly as they relate to the brand/target and their mindset.
In the example below, I've worked with a friend of mine who is a Real Estate agent to identify some of the concerns his clients might have.
3.) Next, each group takes out the Circles of Influence page (Worksheet II) and discusses which of the items from the first worksheet ("Circle of Concern") are things that the target would have control over. These go in the inner circle of the diagram. Those that don't fit in there go in the outer circle. Again, the Moderator gives the groups about 5 minutes for this.
You can see what it looks like in our Home Buyer/Real Estate example below:
4.) Each group now takes out the Brand Influence page (Worksheet III). Once again, they transfer all the words/phrases from one sheet to another, this time from the Circle of Influence page (Worksheet II) to the Circle of Brand Influence page (Worksheet III). As they do it, they put all the issues/concerns that the brand can help with in the middle circle. The ones outside both the brand and audience's concern go in the outer circle, and the ones that the audience can influence but not the brand go in the inner circle. Again, take about 5 minutes for this. You can see our example again below:
5.) Lastly, the different groups (working on different audiences) should share their final worksheet with the rest of the group. The Moderator should guide them through the conversation, and note down any key points/insights from this, particularly where there is solid alignment from the different groups. Some questions to ask at this point:
Can we group any of these items in Brand Influence together?
Is there anything in the Circle of Concern or Circle of Influence that the brand isn't addressing? Or that competitors are?
Are there any similarities between the different audiences?
Are the items in the circle of Brand Influence truly the most important to the audience? Does this matter, based on our brand and audience?
In our hypothetical example of a First-Time Home Buyer, we might realize that although the Real Estate Agent/Agency have done a lot of work around communicating market conditions and other homes in the area, they have't done nay communicating around the actual process of buying a home or why their agents are trusted. This might lead to some interesting territories for communication that can set them apart.
Could small groups, or even a single person, arrive at a similar conclusion without this workshop, and without even the worksheets? Probably. But I also think there is value in getting a key group of people to think through some of the decisions. Hopefully, the discussion will lead to alignment between different teams and the actual role that the brand/organization/service/produce can play in the role of the lives of particular audiences. It might not lead to any new insights, but it can help fine-tune existing ones.
This is also only one component of a greater workshop/series of activities.
As I mentioned above, all parties at the workshop should come to this meeting reasonably well-prepared. In the case of client stakeholders, they probably already have a very good idea of who their audience is and some of their concerns.
In the case of agency partners attending the meeting, they should do some pre-thinking to put themselves in the mind of the different audiences and their needs/concerns.
Circles of Concern/Influence/Brand Worksheets - PDF DOWNLOAD (if you end up using these printouts, print them on large size paper. You're gonna run out of space if you only print them on 8x11).
By way of disclosure: I'm not a home buyer. I don't work with any real estate agencies as clients. And I didn't full explain the purpose of this exercise to my friend, so the answers in the example aren't super deep.
One of the reasons I moved to Vancouver was because of what surrounded the city: mountains.
Since moving here, my friend Ty has taken me under his wing and is showing me the best peaks in the area. He's also gotten me into back-country skiing (or ski-touring), and over the May long weekend we summited Mt. Baker in Washington state.
(For those that are unfamiliar with the sport of ski-touring, as I was until November last year, it's a combination of cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. To go up the hill, you put something called a "skin" on the bottom of your ski that provides you with traction (they're synthetic now, but I'm sure that back in the day they used to be actual seal skins). When you get to the top, you adjust the bindings, take off the skin and its downhill skiing.)
It was probably one of the coolest trips I've ever been on. But also one of the toughest. I'm sure that for the crew I was with, this was an easy little weekend trip into the mountains, though.
I'd like to give a HUGE thank you to Ty, Pete and Kerry for having me along on the trip. I was definitely the rookie, and there was no way I could have even considered going on the trip without them.
If you liked these photos, you might like a few other posts about hiking that I've done in the last year or so:
Tommyhoi Peak (visible from Mt. Baker)
Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to spend my grade 11 year on a sailing ship. We travelled to 40+ countries over the course of the year, learning everything we could about a ship, navigation and the ocean. We sometimes spent two or more weeks at sea without seeing land or another ship (It was more White Squall than Breaker High). We crossed the Atlantic ocean. We went through the Panama Canal. We visited Easter Island. The Galapagos. We traced the routes of great explorers.
The whole trip ignited a passion for the ocean within me. It's what driven me to learn how to surf. It's why I love living so close to the water here in Vancouver now.
Part of the my interest in the ocean was directed at the majority of the traffic we saw on that trip: the massive cargo ships and oil tankers.
It's a deeper look into something I've always had questions about. What's it like for the crew to live on one of those ships? How was it changed over the years? What's going to happen in the next few years as new technology is implemented?
The episode about coffee is particularly interesting, and particularly the way that the world's love of "third wave coffee" has influenced the coffee industry, and the related shipping.
Part of what I liked about the Containers podcast was that Alex found something he was interested in, and went down a deep rabbit hole of learning more about it.
In a way it reminded of "Mother Earth Mother Board," a now-20-year-old article originally published in Wired. It's an account of the Neil Stephenson's (yes, that Neil Stephenson's) GPS-directed journey around the world as he follows the laying of the fibre-optic cable that makes up the backbone of our communications system.
Both will make you think a bit more deeply about the source of the coffee you're drinking and the data you're absorbing as you read/listen to them. Technology and global commerce are changing rapidly, but they're still built on legacy systems.
One of the things that I both love and hate about what I do is an inability to just look at some sort of communication from a company without absolutely picking it apart, and trying to reverse-engineer the brief or thinking that went into it.
On a recent Westjet flight I looked out and saw that instead of a logo, the winglet had the Westjet.com URL on it (and what I don't think is in the actual Westjet font).
West jet knows that their passengers like to take pictures out the window, and used to encourage it as part of the #WingletWednesday hashtag thing they had going on. At some point, they decided to change the lettering on their winglets to include the .com.
How conscious or planned was the decision to make this a URL instead of a logo?
How many incremental people would visit the Westjet website (and book a flight) after seeing the URL, compared to if it had only been the Westjet logo?
Is there anyone out there who wouldn't be able to figure out or find the Westjet website if it wasn't a URL? Or does having this as a URL reinforce the idea that Westjet is a modern, technology-enabled carrier for the always-connected traveller?
I want to say that there is probably no real way to measure this the value of adding a URL but that isn’t necessarily true. It's just that the cost would probably outweigh the benefit.
I didn’t lose sleep over these questions (I can barely stay awake on airplanes due to the hum of the engines and the gentle rocking of mild turbulence) but they’re the kinds of things I like to think about. Or not think about, if I’m trying to relax.