Steph Simon, Advertising

I'm Steph, and I'm a strategist

Describe your job

Strategy (also referred to as planning) is a notoriously difficult role to define but ultimately, we’re the voice of the consumer in the process of creating campaigns.

We receive the client briefs and it’s our job to turn that into a creative brief by finding an insight (a human, brand, market, media, cultural or competitor truth) that will help the creatives find a creative solution to the client’s business problem.

What are the most important skills you need to do your job?

Being analytical and deductive are both important skills need to be a strategist.

In the process of creating a strategy we will receive a lot of information from the client, first-hand research, the data teams and from your own desk research. Being able to spot a nugget of gold in that pile of information and reduce that down to a single-minded and simple thought is the greatest challenge for a strategist, but it’s also the most rewarding. When you find something that excites the team you’re working with it’s the moment when a campaign starts to take shape.

Being empathetic is another useful skill for a strategist. It’s important to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the people buying what you’re trying to sell. That way you can establish what their needs and behaviours are in order to reach them with the most motivating message.

I left school and...

After I left school I went to study sociology in Bristol. It was that interest in people, society and culture that put me on the path to being where I am now (although I should say that strategists have hugely varied backgrounds – you don’t have to have studied a social science).

Getting into advertising is hard and getting a junior strategy job is even harder. The roles are hard to come by and unlike junior creatives, strategists don’t tend to have portfolios so it’s difficult to show how your brain works without a body of work committed to paper.

The turning point for me was when I entered the APG young planner award. Having my award paper to go along side my CV helped me land a junior strategy role.

I’m most proud of...

I’m most proud to have been a part of the Guide Dogs campaign ‘we need each other’. It had a hugely positive impact on people’s perception of what it’s like to live with sight loss and it was very well received by the sight loss community itself.

The level of human understanding we gained from research and the incredibly touching story crafted by the creatives are what makes it a beautiful piece of work.

Before I started my career, I wish I knew…

'No man is an island.' Don’t glue yourself to your desk and pressure yourself into having all the answers. Go and speak to people. Run them through your first thoughts and gage which areas elicit the most visceral response.

Collaboration early on in the process gets early buy in to your idea and can turn good ideas into great ones.

A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...

Not speaking up out of fear of saying something stupid.

The strategists are often heralded as being the smartest people in room (problematic on many levels) and that puts a lot of pressure on you to always be right. No one is always right, ever.

So speak up, your opinion is valued that’s why you’re in the room.

So, what’s next?

Keep pushing myself to learn and improve by surrounding myself with the right people.

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Finding people that compliment your skill sets can be mutually beneficial in progressing on your accounts, making better work and navigating the industry. We all need allies!

Here's my:

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