Why Planners are like Time Lords

On Wednesday I had lunch with a senior planner from Leith, who came highly recommended by some colleagues at Blonde. Since I often work autonomously at Blonde, I was keen to know how other planners operated, to try and establish some form of benchmark for the work I produce. I get feedback of course from clients and colleagues, but it’s not the same as belonging to a team… a group… a species.

I’d blogged a while back about feeling a bit lost at work. We have a planning team of four people here (with input from other teams and disciplines), though the other three members have at least two additional roles in the company so consequently I spend a lot of time on my own and this occasionally drives me a little bit mad. Sure I’m happy to chill out with my own initiative, but most of this space exploration is done solo and even in a busy office, you can find yourself stuck in your own universe.

I’d also wondered what other planners were like, since the local grapevine offered rumours we’d each arrived at planning on less conventional paths. For example, I joined Blonde as a Project Manager, it was just that I particularly enjoyed insight and strategy so after a number of discussions, I moved sideways. Increasingly, I have wanted to meet other planners… seeking to find out how they arrived in this space, how they approached projects, whether we faced the same problems, whether we solved them differently.

And as it happens we’re not that different. To my relief, they don’t all have postgraduate qualifications in research techniques or accreditation or affiliation to any research bodies or organisations. Apart from the difference in experience and occupying different media territory, mindsets seem to be fairly similar. I’ve also liked all the planners I’ve met at Leith… thoroughly genuine people.

When I described my role as a planner to someone recently, they reflected back that I sounded like a detective. I spend a lot of my time figuring out the motivations of different audiences, searching for patterns in data and solving problems. OK, OK… so I’m not a crime fighter, but often find myself being transported to all sorts of unusual places online…. sites where I didn’t expect to go, discovering new people and projects. We’re not in the business of saving the planet, but it is well within the scope of a planner to at least try and make the world a better place.

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