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A Crafty Week 4

In this week’s newsletter, we have been thinking about our productivity and the effects of our new scenario on the way we work and what it means for us. There are plenty of Easter Eggs in the forms of tips and tricks to use, but don’t worry these ones are calorie free. We hope you enjoy reading and your feedback as ever is really appreciated, so do let us know what you think and if there’s anything you want to know more about, or a topic you think we should cover.


Over the last few weeks we have celebrated the power of video. We, like many others have applauded its ability to unite and connect us at work, at home and as communities. We have marvelled in the pockets of joy it has given us throughout the day from laughing at #zoomfails (check outMs Potato head)on to trying to pick our favourite Zoom background (Yorkshire Tea anyone?). And of course, many other video apps are available. All interaction with others outside our home is through some form of video call and very rapidly it has become as much our culture as sharing a cup of tea.

As we share our usually private spaces with colleagues and clients, we are learning more about each other’s lives; hearing kids call out, meeting pets and whilst occasionally checking ourselves out and trying to do something with our bad hair. We have certainly got closer to each other and more comfortable in communicating and sharing information. Some of our contacts have even admitted they are spending more time with their teams now than ever before.

But regardless of how great we are all getting along, is anyone else also finding it a little exhausting? Anyone else feeling blurry eyed and heavy headed from a day surrendered to video calls? A day of scanning the screen, looking for body language, interpreting the muffle behind poor Wi-Fi connection, making sure you don’t look to scruffy or accidentally swearing at your partner when you aren’t on mute, can take its toll.

TheWall Street Journal suggest that we are becoming drained from an overload of nonverbal cues. Pre-coronavirus, when we held meetings, we had an armoury of non-verbal cues we could rely on; shaking hands or a hug to start, reading the room as we listened or spoke, making notes and easily building each other’s points and let’s be honest interrupting each other. Those normal cues and behaviours have been disrupted. We are spending long periods of our days holding prolonged eye contact with multiple people on the screen,a verbal cue more culturally interpreted  either as infatuation or threatening, neither of which would genuinely apply to a work meeting. WSJ wrote ‘Software like Zoom was designed to do online work, and the tools that increase productivity weren't meant to mimic normal social interaction’

In normal meetings we have control over personal space; where we sit and who we sit close to. In Zoom meetings your distance and personal space is decided by your format view and how large your head is (e.g. how close you are to the screen). It’s fair to say that the further you are away, perhaps the less engaged you appear (even if actually you are just more relaxed and less drained by this choice).

So, what does this mean for us? The ‘Working-from-home-trying-to-keep-on-going’ workforce? Well, we at Craft, have been thinking through a few ways we can start to innovate the process of presenting, responding to briefs and approaching pitches. We are hearing from multiple partners, pals and comrades in the industry the struggles and frustrations of agency presentations and pitches during this time. We have some thoughts that we are trying to implement at this time:

  • Go back to the written document - CEO Jeff Bezos says  that at Amazon they don’t use PowerPoints for meetings, instead, "Somebody for the meeting has prepared a six-page...narratively structured memo. It has real sentences, and topic sentences, and verbs, and nouns--it's not just bullet points." Writing is such a powerful way to communicate a story, meaning and explanation that everyone can understand. It can be broken into sections, and referred back to throughout the meeting. It should be circulated ahead of time so that attendees can have time to read this prior.

  • No big reveal - We don’t have the access to props, and fancy screens or the perfect atmosphere in a room to successfully deliver the ‘big reveal’ a device we are commonly used to working with. The alternative is to cut to the chase, provide the deck or response in advance, and make it snappier, it means that everyone starts on the same footing, and enables questions to be pre-prepared and the call to flow.

  • Get Granny on board first – In simple terms, make sure what you are going to deliver over zoom anyone can understand because if Granny gets it over face time you should (fingers crossed on the person on the other end) be good to go! Please note other humans or relatives can also be used!

  • More time tackling the brief, less time presenting- Bottom line here is use the time now (as likely more time than ever) to get to a brilliant answer. And secondly, make the presentation shorter (don’t flap).  Shout out to Twitter, who mentioned on the #couchconference yesterday that they are keeping them to 20 minutes as ‘a good conference is a short conference’.

  • Listen- There is a great opportunity here to not be distracted by things going on in the meeting room, phones on the desk, emails popping up and maybe not having to gaze into 10 people’s eyes. Use discipline to stay engaged and turn the mic and video off and use our ears.

  • ‘The two-pizza rule’- Another one stolen from Jeff. Try to make sure the number of people on the meeting is only the number that could comfortably eat two large pizzas between them.  In other words, look to keep meetings small. This is essential for Zoom meetings as it will help avoid interruptions, and keeps focus on a few voices and faces. The beauty then of zoom is that the meeting can be recorded for those involved in the work and decisions to watch after and record for others involved after to watch- just make sure everyone is ok with that first.

Whilst the above is focused on the delivery, there is also the question of etiquette for our video led world, a great article to check out is from Cat Davies in the Drum. Her top tips are:

  • Keep meetings short 

  • Turn off all over devices and windows unless sharing something on the call

  • Break the call/presentation up into chunks and pause to get group input/discussion

  • Turn off your mic but be ready to switch it on fast to have something today (don’t switch yourself off)

  • Keep eye contact

  • Do what you would do before a normal meeting - water, brush hair, go to the toilet, where a nice shirt…Maybe even spray some perfume before you head on the call if that’s what you would do before a normal meeting 

Speed of thought

Dr Mike Ryan, of The World Health Organisation, when talking about how to beat coronavirus made a point which we believe is particularly salient in our industry at this time: “Speed trumps perfection. And the problem we have with society at the moment is everyone is afraid of making a mistake. Everyone is afraid of the consequence of error. But the greatest error is not to move. The greatest error is to be paralyzed by the fear of error”.

This same approach can be considered when it comes to the marketing and communications, and the speed at which we think and work. We are not saying to be irresponsible in deployment of budget or ideas, but we do believe that action is critical

In previous issues of‘A Crafty Week’we touched on speed at which brands have adapted their production lines to help the crisis (Brewdog, LVMH, Zara, New Balance to name a few). These are the best examples of any, that demonstrate speed in decisions. They focused on helping first, but as brands have done well in terms of perception since. More recently, in the world of advertising we have seen brands donate their TV schedule to charities,Co-op is donating a £2.5m ad campaign to foodbank charities to help them drive donations. This week’s Twitter #couchconference, referenced Coca-Cola’s donation of their Twitter page and fans to charities such as Salvation Army and Red Cross America so that they can reach out to audiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to for support. And whilst some might be proclaiming the lack of reach of organic social, it is still a worthy action. This is an example of a very simple mechanic, demonstrating the brand uniting with others and thinking fast.

The commonality for Coca-Cola and Co-op here is clear. Not only have they both accelerated their speed of thought, but they have not necessarily created or built anything new, but have used what they had available to help, they have reconfigured their plan and come up with a new solution in a short space of time.

This approach using speed of thought and action is comparable to a particular model The OODA Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. A model originally developed by the US military strategist Colonel John Boyd to improve process of air-to- air combat, for the US Airforce. This four-step approach to decision-making focuses on filtering all available information, placing it in the current context and quickly making the most appropriate decision while also understanding that changes can be made as more information becomes available. We all have access to our own versions of OODA Loops, which we can use to help speed up decisions during this time.

One of our clients this week made a valid point that in light of the current crisis, brands and marketeers should re-think the way we approach marketing and how we speak to consumers in the present time and ask the following questions of ourselves:

  • What are the roots and what is the purpose of the brand?

  • How can we act to help the frontline?

  • How can we act alongside other brands and unite as one?

  • Are there any other relevant contexts that matter to people right now and where we fit in? If it isn’t helping on the front line, what can genuinely benefit people right now, whether that be activities at home, health, fitness and so on? If your business or brand naturally fits here, these are the areas that should be worked on.

Speed of thought is grounded in good foundations however, a strategy that allows a business to make decisions on a firm bedrock of why we do things. And at this time perhaps we should try to forgo the huge data and science led decks to underpin every last sentence on every slide. Often some of the answer is lying right under our noses; in our hunches, in our past experiences and from previous relationships and events. Re-tapping into these could just be the solution and combining with the new challenge is intrinsic to speed Furthermore, we often in the ad world are shoehorned into responding to the consequences and retrospective thinking (doing something after it has happened). Of course, it would have been strange for LVMH to start making hand sanitiser in 2015 when Bill Gates declared that we were on the verge of a pandemic, and shifting production to non-business needs is a costly venture, but we could ask what-if more often. One recent article this week in campaign argues that we don’t spend enough time being proactive and ‘preventing’ a situation occurring. Now is a perfect time for us to pause and genuinely think what clients might need, what other agency partners might need, what we might need, and what are we missing, how we can make the future ‘us’ more effective, and how can we value longer term strategic planning.

Here are some top tips on what we can all be doing to speed up our thinking during this slow and unprecedented time: Crafty top tips:

  • Go back to old pieces of work and think how they might be useful now

  • Dig out old contacts and have a chat, find out what they are working on, how can you help each other

  • Identify clear objectives for each of our clients

  • Regularly catch up with clients and ask them about challenges they are facing

  • Don’t be afraid to put deals and ideas in front of clients when you come up with the (even if they can’t do it, they will appreciate the proactivity)

  • Do a SWOT analysis of you clients and maybe even yourself?

  • Visualise challenges, use a pen and paper

  • Take a walk, take a break, listen to a podcast

  • Get off Zoom for a day? Pick-up the phone and call people

  • Keep a notebook and write down ideas as soon as they come to you

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