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How to be a Strategist

How to be a Strategist, Matt Cox.

Tell us about what your job involves?

Problem solving and unearthing insight in order to build ideas. Believing in those ideas until the bitter end and being interested in why people do what they do.

How did you get to where you are now?

I applied to the IPA Summer School (now called Ad School). It was helpful to get an overview of the industry within a short space of time.

What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

Some problems don’t even want to be solved, even if someone is asking for them to be. How do you make a believer of a disbeliever? It will change from person to person, you need to understand the people you are working with and the brands you are working with, as much as the audiences in the briefs you are trying to solve. What motivates them, why are they saying no, how can you make them say yes? You need to nail down the insight in order to overcome these challenges.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Finding creative solutions are not like Maths problems – one plus one very rarely equals two and if it does you’re probably not trying hard enough. I always want to tackle every problem in minute detail. That has always been a problem for me and, being a planner, I’ve been able to embrace it. I don’t really see that I have a job, it’s just a place I come to think about stuff.

What characteristics do you need to do your job?

Believe there’s a better way. Enjoy thinking about stuff and it really shouldn’t matter what background you are from.

How do you think your job will evolve over the next few years?

I think the job will evolve by clients being even more open to what answers their agencies can come up with. Those that don’t look at the full picture will no doubt miss an opportunity. I believe the processes will become leaner, more transparent with less division between roles.

How are you adapting for this change?

I always ask myself ‘what would I do with this brief if the ask was for a different specialism?’, ‘what if it had half the budget?’, ‘what if I owned this company, what would I do?’. Just because someone asks you a very specific question, it doesn’t mean that’s the only answer you have to think about. Come back to the main challenge: how do you make a believer of a disbeliever.

What would you recommend to anyone thinking of doing what you do?

Whatever you see happening in the world ask yourself what would you do differently? How would you achieve this? Put together a three-minute pitch to how you would do it; can you sell that solution to someone else? Think about what you could do next to make it happen. In a nutshell that’s it! Fundamentally planning is about understanding and finding the human truth of problems, and that’s why I enjoy it. If you like thinking like that it’s worth unearthing some more insight into how to progress with a career in strategy.