How To Run A Kickass Team Strategy Meeting

Comment

How To Run A Kickass Team Strategy Meeting

How To Run A Kickass Team Strategy Meeting

One of the most significant parts of marketing your brand and company effectively is knowing when and how to pull the trigger on a strategy session and bring your team together to hash out the details and brainstorm. Too often at work, we get into a monotonous cycle where little thought was given into the higher purpose of our work, and instead, we find ourselves checking off tasks and moving on to the next thing where--big surprise--we repeat the cycle!

I have worked for two marketing agencies, before owning my firm, and am familiar with the immense variability in shape of team strategy meetings. Some sessions succeed amazingly to inspire and produce wonderfully creative work, and some crash and burn (I have been guilty of leading a few of the ‘crash-and-burners’). The differences between team (or stakeholder) strategy sessions that kickass versus ones that, well, suck is the purpose of this blog post.

Our goal at Summary Content Marketing is to elevate the industry and help others who are looking to find new and creative ways to improve their brand’s marketing do just that. So without further comment or reflection, here’s my secret formula on how to run a kickass team strategy meeting.

 Be the best strategic planners you can be! 

Be the best strategic planners you can be! 

ONE: Diversity Is Your Friend

If you are in a leadership position on a team or are the owner of a company, it may seem like asking for disaster to bring too many people into a conversation about strategy. Moreover, in some ways, you are correct in your thinking (see point number four). However, if your group is not diverse--meaning that the representatives in the meeting not to reflect the full picture of the brand you are strategizing for--your session will fail. For example: If the marketing team for a new Kombucha company, that is growing, meets to discuss marketing needs in two new regions it would be folly not to include the company representative(s) in charge of the area. Your team won’t necessarily know any of the nuances that go on in that region--nuances that could make or break a marketing campaign. Moral of the story: make sure you have equal representation across your company departments in team strategy sessions so that a big oops doesn’t get made just because the right person wasn’t in the room.

TWO: Relocate, Unplug and Dig In

Probably the most relevant tip for seeing positive results come out of your next strategy session, getting out of your company box is critical for success. It may seem silly, too expensive or too time-consuming to take your team out of the office for strategy planning, but of the many sessions I have attended, the most fun, comfortable and productive strategy meetings have been away from the office environment where the attendees work--this means ALL attendees. If you are the marketing firm, having the session at your client’s office is NOT A GOOD PLAN. If you are a part of a big team in a more prominent company, using the company conference room will not produce the best results. Why? It’s common sense. If you work in a place day in and day out, then suddenly are asked to put everything down and ‘get creative’ + ‘strategize for results,’ changing gears doesn’t happen easily. If you have a strategy session in your work environment, your attendees will be half engaged--email, or their next meeting, or the tasks they are missing by being in your meeting will dominate the mood, making it hard to see the big picture. On that note: Another benefit of being off-site is that computers will not be there. So, if your team is entirely dominated by laptop-time at work, leave them behind. You need all the ‘real life’ creative power you can get. Not half-assed attention. Get my drift?

THREE: Use An Ice Breaker

I promise this is not as silly and overdone as it sounds. Let me say that, Icebreakers. Work. They do! Keep in mind that most of the time in a strategy session, you’re working with clients and vendors who don’t know each other well or a team that may see each other every day, but in a work environment--riddled with politics, attitudes, and deadlines. Finding a simple icebreaker to kick off your meeting will put the whole group at ease. Then you can get into the real work of creating a fun, practical and productive strategy session. Here’s a fun blog with lots of icebreaker options for your next meeting.

FOUR: Choose Your People With Care

Not to contradict tip number one: You need a diverse group, not a large group. There is a difference. If you’ve worked in corporate long enough, then you’ve likely heard the saying ‘don’t make decisions by committee.’ That’s why you need to choose your attendees for any strategy session with great care. 1) Make sure the group you choose doesn’t include two or more people who dislike each other or another weird dynamic. 2) Try only to have one representative from each department or company in attendance (you don’t need three copywriters or four attendees from the same team--unless they provide very different points of view.

FIVE: Overplanning Will Overwhelm

You may think that having a lengthy and detailed agenda for the meeting, with tons of detailed questions and activities, will be inspirational for the group. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it won’t. Generally, teams or groups dread these types of meetings for a few reasons. For one, often team strategy sessions are overplanned and too exhausting to be enjoyable. There’s a balance where you can keep your team’s attention, maintain direction during the meeting and produce results. The other reason overplanning is a recipe for disaster is that it allows for ‘egotistical takeovers’ to happen. If you’re shaking your head ‘hell yes!’ right now, then you’ve been in a meeting where one of the team members takes over and dominates the conversation throughout with their two cents, not allowing any other attendees to contribute. No strategy session is complete without one of these a-holes, but if the a-hole is in a leadership position, they create a one-sided conversation--not a good recipe for group strategy planning.

SIX: Invest In The Outcome

Most of us go into creating a strategy with some predisposed idea of what we want the outcome to be. However, sometimes the group discovers a plan for success that is entirely out of whack with our own (individual) sensibilities. Whether you’re on a team and just contributing to a strategic planning meeting, or putting together the meeting yourself, try to go into it with a bright and open mind. Some of the best marketing projects I have had the pleasure of working on have taken weird twists and turns along the way, and developed into something different than I had initially envisioned--an outcome that was much better. If your approach to strategy development is open, the result will be that much more rewarding.

Most importantly and above all else, have fun! If you’re not humorous about the process, what’s the point!

 

Sincerely,

Lis Thomas, Chief Decider

Summary Content Marketing

Comment

6 Ways To Get Your Brand Out Of A Marketing Rut

1 Comment

6 Ways To Get Your Brand Out Of A Marketing Rut

6 Ways To Get Your Brand Out Of A Marketing Rut

If you work in any marketing role, you know that it’s easy to set goals, ambitious objectives and create campaigns at the beginning of the year, but then it can be like pulling teeth to get yourself, your team or your department to execute those ‘wonderfully inspired tasks.’ Am I right? So what do you do when your team (or one man/woman shop) gets into a rut?

 Adventure out of your marketing rut!

Adventure out of your marketing rut!

First of all, cut yourself some slack. If you’re managing a team of marketers or doing it all yourself, I’m here to tell you and assure you that it’s hard! Staying motivated and overcoming roadblocks with marketing is a bitch. But, you can get it done. What you need are some real and fun tactics to take you and your team out of the DEADED RUT, and into the beautiful and shiny world of ‘well-oiled production team.’

 

Work on the achievable first

Be it setting up a meeting with another internal department, reaching out to vendors for a quote, establishing a timeline or any number of other things that can serve as a starting point, get moving and do it! Most of the time--at least based on our extensive research--getting into a rut with business goals or marketing efforts start when we get too ‘macro’ with our thinking and forget to look at the ‘small tasks’ that will eventually get us to our big goal, due date or campaign completion.

Delegate without dissecting

It may seem a bit backward to talk about delegation before some of the other vital elements of project execution, but we’ve learned that sometimes it takes assigning a task to someone else to get it done and make progress on a project. For example; we are a small marketing boutique, which means that everyone on our team has to be ON IT all the time. This style of business gives us lots of flexibility but also says we don’t have a lot of time to mull things over or brainstorm new ideas without having someone to keep us accountable--in fact, accountability is the most significant asset in the ‘marketing project execution’ process. If we get tasks out for a project or client deliverable, all the sudden stuff starts to happen! And we get sh*%t done.

Important Note: Micromanaging absolutely ruins the benefit of this tip. Maybe the person you delegate to will not execute the needed task in the exact way you would have (managers, I’m talking to you), but you need to hand over the reigns and trust their process. Otherwise, you are both doing double work, which let’s be honest, is just plain silly.

Map it out

If you or your team is having trouble establishing clear steps to get a big project, campaign or deliverable from A to Z, either sit down with your team or put someone in charge of timeline management, creating touch points for the project and mapping out the needs, responsible parties, and deliverables. Project mapping may seem like an obvious step, but in our experience, it’s a step that often overlooked, glossed over or ignored, ultimately causing a project to get help up in a crucial stage of execution. For more great tips on creating a project plan, timeline and map, read this blog from Lucidchart.

Brainstorm the big stuff

Funny as it may seem--especially with all of the seminars and team retreats out there these days--getting a team together to brainstorm big ideas or creative ways to develop and execute a marketing idea, doesn’t happen all that much. In our experience, often teams or clients have a hard idea of how a marketing project should get done, and just plug project players into spots. But, if a company owner or leader can take the time, and find the humility to allow their team to come up with plans to execute the BIG MARKETING GOALS together, often the outcome is that much better. This is also a great way to get out of a marketing rut with your team. Just get everyone in a room already! Ask them a few open-ended questions about the project or goal and see what happens. For more on how to correctly brainstorm with your team, read this blog from Harvard Business Review.

Be okay with the outcome

As we mentioned in the section on delegation, type-A-ers and micromanagers can have a difficult time allowing others to get the job done without constant supervision, but this only hurts you, your teammates and the outcome of the marketing project--especially if it requires creative thinking. Remember the age-old cliche, ‘if you love something, let it go’? For optimal performance, all managers must learn this lesson--some learn it the hard way. By holding the project, team or task to close, you do not allow for new ideas, alternate ways of doing something, and ultimately it breeds instability and apathy within your department or company. The exact outcome of your project may not be what you originally envisioned, but if you want to make progress and get out of a marketing rut, you need to let go and trust the process!

Reset or reboot

Once a project, campaign or tactic is complete, it’s easy to leave it and move on to the next shiny object. But, if you can create the time to go back through the steps, timeline and project history with your team, you’ll find learning lessons from mistakes made, team dynamics observed, and opportunities for future planning that would not be revealed if left and abandoned at the finish line. Just like a runner needs to review their races to see where they can improve, you and your team need to consider your process periodically to make sure each of you is growing. This can be done with a short survey or a post-project recap meeting. Either way, don’t skimp on this step. It will come back to bite your brand!


Need more advice, tips and or help with content strategy, marketing strategy and or project management for your company or team? Shoot us a message! We’d love to chat.

1 Comment