A year ago I had just finished researching on the occupational field of Public Relations for my bachelor dissertation. The study I carried out with more than 900 PR practitioners surprised me and showed one thing clearly: If you plan to pursue a stellar career in the PR occupation, you have to develop managerial, leadership and business knowledge and that’s why I decided for the MACE Managing and the Creative Economy programme – to expand my creative skills by business understanding. I don’t know the exact position I would like to have in five to ten years time yet, but what I do know is that I’ve always been into content management. If it’s not going to be a content marketing agency I am going to work for in the near future, I might throw myself into the content management team of a large company. One thing is for sure: I would like to take over responsibility. This is also the reason for which I took over the Managing Director position during the Designing a Business project.
Although I’d learned about basic branding principles before, I am glad the MACE programme offered me valuable insights into new fields that will be of advantage for my creative management future, such as lean management principles, tribes & customer identification, creative leadership, as well as selling & pitching. Once managing a PR agency, all those fields will be important to me on more than just one level: As an agency provides a service to companies those principles will not only apply to the agency itself, its operations and employees but also to the client’s company and their operations.
BRANDING & THE SEARCH FOR MEANING
As Dr. Beaumont explained to us, branding is made up of three components:
- “Brand is everything that creates an experience for the customer
- DNA is the unique message of the business that is communicated in the brand
- Identity is usually the visual part of the brand: logo, colours, layout, adverts, design”
For this project we aimed to use those three concepts and thinking of the brand as an experience for the customer we tried to take the meaning of the business even a little bit deeper. We’ve dealt a lot with problems the local community of London and the society as a whole have which has lead us to the fantastic concept of social enterprises. Just as Alex Hannant says, the world is not capable of managing the monsters it creates. From the beginning of this project we knew we were doing something bigger than designing umbrella bags. We take material that would otherwise go to landfill, create something new out of it and donate back to whatever institution the material came from. It’s not a win win. It’s a win win win win win. Why? Social enterprises go where conventional enterprises don’t. They go to places that aren’t attractive to the conservative business world, but at the same time open up new paths which will be crucial in the future and which traditional businesses might desperately need at some point. Social enterprises have not only great potential to be branded and provided with the community’s goodwill successfully, I also strongly believe in their growth potential for the future because of those exact reasons. In fact, social enterprises and working with the community’s issues have impressed me so much that I have recently applied for a Social Entrepreneurship workshop in Germany and even thought about Social Entrepreneurship as a potential special interest field for setting up a PR agency.
Having read Eric Ries’s “The Lean Startup” the production of our “Heroes” was definitely enhanced by his lean startup principles and inspired by a saying by Lao Tzu: “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading”. As today’s market is highly competitive, fulfilling a real customer’s need is essential. The core of Lean Thinking is about defining and delivering what is valuable to them over various incremental stages. A business run in this way, keeps customers, shareholders, and employees happy and reduces the risk setting up a business usually involves. For several times we have adapted customer feedback and included it into further production stages as Dan brilliantly describes in his blog post “Sequencing our startup DNA”. But it is not only about startup principles; taking my future in an agency into consideration, where I might have to deal with more established companies, the Lean Management philosophy provides a great framework for expansion as well as this video and the associated article illustrate. According to those, the whole business improves when its processes a) establish a pull system, b) create one piece flow, c) work in takt, and d) strive for zero defects.
TRIBES & CUSTOMER IDENTIFICATION
In order to identify our target group, we made use of social media. Based on a survey we carried out in the social media sphere, we filtered which people would buy our product and actually they had much in common! We took this information in order to create a kind of “mood board” with impressions of their profiles and started analysing those people. All this information showed that we should target enthusiastic business professionals and provided some useful insights into their lives. Although tribes and target groups aren’t new words to me, in fact they are starting points for every PR concept as well, I wish I had known the Lean Tribe Canvas Model by Dr. Corrine Beaumont before. It provides a simple framework which helps identifying customer needs and target groups and choosing appropriate business unit strategies for addressing them. Pointing to the fact that customer and end-user do not necessarily have to be the same person, the canvas splits the target group identification into 8 steps. Having identified and observed the potential tribe with our social media method, the canvas helps a lot to create solutions for those people by thinking of the methods they currently use for solving their problems. I am convinced that from now on I will use this model not only for designing my PR concepts, but also for identifying potential corporate clients the agency I am going to work for shall target, using it as a tool to underline my suggestions to the board.
Directing a team of four – all coming from different backgrounds – into one direction was a challenge. In fact, it was a realistic challenge against the backdrop of every company’s diverse constellation. One of the most important things I’ve learned as a Managing Director is that having a certain degree of working in divisions does make great sense, but also that particularly in a startup environment it is not advisable to think too much in “background dimensions”. Yes, we had a brilliant designer who could instantly visualize every idea we had, but he turned out to have some valuable ideas for our operations management, too. And our finance genius is the finest salesmen we could think of. It takes some time to get to know your team and definitely a lot of courage to hand over certain tasks, but guaranteeing some freedom is the only way the business can grow wings. It is the manager’s responsibility to lay the foundation for this, e.g. by encouraging even the most retiring team members to share their ideas – just as IDEO for instance does. Discovering those hidden talents throughout the team work, I soon got the impression that in every organization out there must be talent that is not fully outcropped. Learning to know my employees on a trustful basis will therefore be one of the preliminary commandments I set myself as a leader. Not part of the Designing a Business module, but great MACE lectures were the Re-Imaging Leadership lectures and Piers Ibbotson’s guest lecture on leading creative people. His idea of reducing the fear of failure creative ideas usually involve, especially in the context of the economy’s evolutiontowards more immaterial, knowledge-based products andservices, could help employees opening up. Overall, the leadership topic motivated me to step into further discourse with this topic, preparing myself for a leadership role with the help of Piers’ “The Illusion of Leadership”. For me as a hands-on and outspoken person it is a valuable experience to understand that many people have the ability, but simply can’t share their ideas the same straight forward way I usually do.
SELLING & PITCHING
PR agencies have to pitch. They do it every day, because it’s their way to win new corporate clients. Usually a company puts a project offering out and invites agencies to apply. Agencies then prepare competitive pitches with their first creative ideas on the project in order to win the client. Stepping into the agency world soon this will be my job. However, as pitching is an art and very complex, I am thankful for the intense work we have spent on it during Designing a Business lectures and a workshop with Eewei Chen. Particularly the very brief elevator pitch often proved to help understanding our own ideas better. Just as Businessknowhow.com outlines, an elevator pitch must contain an opening hook, about 150-225 words, a lot of passion and a request in the end and overall answer six questions:
- “What is your product or service?
- Who is your market?
- What is your revenue model?
- Who is behind the company?
- Who is your competition?
- What is your competitive advantage?”
Because this kind of method appeared as a very powerful tool to me, I researched further and came across the Forbes’ Message Map which I will definitely use for further pitches as well. By describing the core business in a “Twitter Friendly Headline” and surrounding it with three supporting facts helps a lot to structure your idea of a complex business and therefore is a great tool for preparing the elevator pitch.
Also, selling our Heroes face-to-face at different markets across London provided me with a whole new but very positive experience. The direct and very honest customer feedback made the effort worthwhile. To see how little changes about the pitch or display design had tremendous effects on customer’s perception as well as how many business professionals such as investors are present at such markets, illustrated how powerful the whole trade fair tool was. This made me believe that agencies should take the opportunity to attend professional trade shows and exhibitions with a stand whenever there might be potential corporate clients around as well – something they usually don’t invest in.
There are a few additional points I happily take out of the module:
– Setting up and leading a business involves a lot of reflection throughout the whole process. There are a lot of people surrounding you, everyone tries to give you their very best advises and because they often contradict it is by no means easy to find your route. In the end it is up to the team that runs the business to combine the best advises to a map that will work for the company.
– Presenting is an art and all the various Ted Talks we have watched during our MACE time have raised my expectations of a well delivered presentation massively. What those Ted Talks do is making the audience embrace the idea themselves and this turns out to be the most powerful tool to make them act towards your desired goal.
– Operations management is tough and it is all about timing and keeping an eye on the schedule. Only with the help of constant deadlines we managed to achieve our goals and a well developed time plan is something I will try to include into all my future projects.
– It is not easy to network with professionals straight forward. Taking opportunities to outline your professional competences e.g. on Twitter and make people come to you is therefore a comfortable compromise I discovered.
To conclude, I just love how tightly knit the whole programme is and that everything we learn in different courses makes perfect sense in the light of the practical Designing a Business module. The combination of my bachelor studies, the Designing a Business and International Business Management classes made me a “practically experienced entrepreneur with management and communication skills” – exactly what I want to be. Having discovered the world of pitching, leading creative people, identifying tribes and branding socially meaningful business models, has taken me closer to where I can imagine my professional business career will take place – a position in a creative, yet grounded environment.
Beaumont, C. (2013a) ‘Lean Tribe Canvas’ Designing a Business (Design Thinking + Lean Startups)Available at: http://macekingston.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/lean-tribe-canvas/ (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Beaumont, C. (2013b) ‘Design & Branding’ Designing a Business (Design Thinking + Lean Startups)Available at: http://macekingston.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/design-and-branding/ (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Casey, B. (2013) ‘Leading People — IDEO: the creative organization’ Youtube Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQMqEiJAIOA(Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Clifton-Hadley, D. (2013) ‘Sequencing our startup DNA’ danchadley Available at: http://danchadley.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/sequencing-our-start-up-dna/ (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Darso, L. and Ibbotson, P. (2010) ‘Directing Creativity: The Art and Craft of Leadership’ Available at: http://www.directingcreativity.co.uk/images/piersImages/rotman-article.pdf(Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Forbes (2012) ‘Message Map: How To Pitch Anything In 15 Seconds’ Youtube Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phyU2BThK4Q(Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Fourprinciples (2012) ‘Four Principles Lean Management – Get Lean in 90 Seconds’ Youtube Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfsRAZUnonI (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Fourprinciples (no date) ‘Lean Principles’ Fourprinciples – The Lean Management Experts Available at: Youtube Available: http://www.fourprinciples.ae/leandetails.aspx?id=6#.U1dZEFdV6ap (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Tedx Talks (2012) ‘Why social enterprise is a good idea, and how we can get more’ Youtube Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kx9tizvS8NY#t=16(Accessed: 22.04.2014)
Pagliarini, R. (no date) ‘How to Write an Elevator Speech’ Business Know How Available at: http://www.businessknowhow.com/money/elevator.htm (Accessed: 22.04.2014)
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