In this interesting article (which may not be free to access much longer), John Griffiths argues, on the occasion of 40 years of planning, that the word ‘planning’ is no longer easy to define. He proposes a business model which differentiates between these different kinds of planners (or, to my mind ‘strategists’, which is what he quotes Jon Steel also referring to their main duties as being). I thought summarising the article here, in my own words, would be a useful exercise. It certainly brought clarity of thought.
Reputation planners: To a client, what matters is that the name of the firm and the product should have public approval, because that’s the way they can increase profit. In a sense, they need to work with public relations and customer services to ensure that this is done. In a 2.0 world, where one person’s disapproval spreads like wildfire on the internet, this is one job in itself.
Communications planners: In a sentence, how can the client get its audience’s attention?
Interactive planners: For consumers, it’s all about their experience of the brand. Mostly, to my mind, this means ‘digital experience’. I was approached recently by an interactive planner from digital agency Play, for example, to give my feedback on one of their projects. Marketers, as Griffiths says, are realizing that the expectations of a small group of influencers need to be tightly managed. By testing your product before putting it out, you are less likely to fall below the expectations of your audience.
Audience planning: These people need to know their numbers, to ascertain exactly what the size of your audience is, and how to grow them.
Media planners: Which channels or networks do you place your communication in to get maximum effect? Griffiths mentions agencies like Naked Communications here, whose primary work is strategy. He is surprised that communications planning agencies are able to thrive alongside traditional advertising and media agencies. I’m not, because clearly the reason for their growth is that they are providing services that planners in the other two kinds of agencies don’t. Hotshops like them – and Strawberry Frog, or Santo, are growing, and will continue to grow, for that reason.
Content planning: This, according to Griffiths is a group of people too new to define clearly. Think of the re-hashing of the Guinness ad by the Pot Noodle people, or re-mixing of ads at home by people like you and me, which surface on YouTube. Those spread like wildfire too. These people need to create or control that kind of output – because clearly, it has an effect on brand name.