All day long, you hear challenges and create plans to navigate through them. Briefs, decks whatever. You put in writing the plan for how to get from the place the organization or brand is in today to where it needs to be. Where are you today? Are you where you need to be? If not, how do you approach that challenge? Here’s an idea for you: write a brief for you. Strategists are brilliant at framing a problem and mapping the way out, but often pretty terrible at doing this for themselves.

I spent some time writing a brief for myself this spring and found it very helpful. I took a few hours to do what I do for brands and business, clarified the challenge, described the obstacles and charted some potential paths forward. This helped me reframe things I had been worrying about a little to much in the greater context of where I could potentially go, and helped me map the path to how to get there.

Want help with yours? Find me on Twitter or email me and I’d be happy to see where you are. I’d be interested to see what sort of approach you take and how the briefs are shaped. I’ll share interesting stuff with the group (and hide the personal information, obviously).

This month, I was extremely lucky to spend an hour talking with Katie Dreke. She is working through a brief of her own and talked me through how she is considering what her next move should be. Listening to this episode, you’ll hear audible pauses where I believe I was just trying to keep up. Katie thinks deeply and expresses those thoughts simply.

Links:

Katie Dreke on Twitter

Katie Dreke on the web.

So you’re too good for transcripts, eh? Fine. Go ahead and listen to the full episode here: https://specific.substack.com/p/finding-your-way-with-katie-dreke

Transcript:

Adam Pierno: Alright, welcome back to another episode of the strategy inside, everything. This is going to be a fantastic conversation and I know that it will be because we’ve already been having the conversation for nearly 20 minutes before we remember we had to stop and press record. So, I am excited to introduce today’s guest, Katie Dreke has joined us today, Katie, how are you?
Katie Dreke: Hi, good, good to see you.
Adam: Katie is global strategy innovation consultant, and she is currently the first and best employee at DRKE, which we were just, which we were discussing but leading up to that work and the, the work that she’s doing now. She’s had roles at places you’ve heard of I’m sure Nike, Adidas, Droga5, Wieden+Kennedy; other places that I covet and wish I had on my resume so. Very nice to meet you, Katie thank you for making time for me.
Katie: Absolutely, yeah it’s fun to meet you and to be invited.
Adam: Would you give people a little bit more depth on your background and kind of the path of your career that it’s taken up till now before you launched your own shop, if you will.
Katie: Yeah, I’m, I’m originally from Seattle, went to the University of Washington. Got married had two kids settle down and realized I really, there was one more thing I really wanted to do if I could, which was to live and work abroad, and I spent a good year chasing that idea, and really hunting down a role that I could do internationally which luckily led to a job offer from Wieden in the Netherlands and so I moved to Amsterdam with a little ones and spent four years in Amsterdam part of that time was it widened part of it was down the street and another agency called 180. I also spent some time working at it in a global role running global digital strategy and the media team. After that I was offered a job with Droga5 in Sydney. They had a new leader names Sudeep Gohil who was also a planner from Wieden who we knew each other through kind of the white network. They had won some really large accounts, national accounts like Quantas and Woolies and Telstra, and they wanted to bring someone from abroad. And so I could very quickly raised my hand I was done with the rain and Amsterdam and thought the beaches could be kind of nice. And we’d never even been there before but we again we packed up the little heads and shipped out to the other side of the planet, which was a fantastic adventure as well and just learned a lot about that part of the world and also got to work on some cool stuff out of Singapore we went to, we pitched in one, the Tiger Beer account so there was a lot of really fun. Culture, lifestyle, nightlife. Alcohol sort of research that we did all across Southeast Asia.
Adam: Wow.
Katie: And then got a job offer from Nike to return back to the Pacific Northwest and be closer to family again that was about seven years ago, joined Nike in the brand innovation team, and moved into running global media through the Olympics in Brazil, then was asked to take an assignment abroad in Japan lived in Tokyo for two and a half years running the media team there are starting that media but membership setting a membership for the first time outside of the United States, and getting that running and then spreading that across a couple of the markets in Asia, and then was returned back and worked in global media team rebranded the program helped get it set up for relaunch, and then my last remit was a reorder get into the Nike women business group. So that was my one of my high points actually of working at Nike was being a part of relaunch or launching for the first time, a women’s capsule collection for maternity for the, for the pregnant athlete. And it was a it was a seven year right it was a very exciting ride lots of diversity I did not expect to have six jobs in seven years. And I’d be in a lane for a while because that’s what you always hear about going from agency to corporate things slow down and you, and you’re in a track, so choose your track mindfully but I’m here I don’t know whether I’m an anomaly or not but that was my experience and so basically it was like 20 years or so of agency experience digital agencies agencies and so on. And then a couple stints on the client side.
Adam: Do you think that the, the seven jobs that you had there, over seven years because you’re pretty adaptable, the rest of your resumé you’ve covered a lot of ground innovation and media and strategy. You’re a bit of a Swiss Army knife, that’s meant as a compliment. Do you think that those seven roles you’ve had in that, in that one company the fact that they’ve changed your track was that part of the reason why would they be like okay you could do this. Can you can do that.
Katie: I think it was part of it when I reflected back on it, you know now that I’ve left the company and I’m in business for myself. I think that was part of it that that I kind of acquired a bit of a, you know, people could anticipate that when I would be put on something I would attempt to look at it through a different lens, you know that basically would apply an innovation approach, whatever it might be there. But there were a couple of those jobs that I actively chased like I actively and passionately chased the job opportunity in Tokyo, I wanted that.
Adam: Yeah.
Katie: But most of the other ones I was moved. And so it was like, ‘Wait, I was just getting – Okay, you know, I’ll start I’ll start over again with a whole new group of people and a whole new leader and a whole new agenda. Okay!’ get into it get going. make some, you know, move the needle gets the momentum get some traction. ‘Oh, I was just getting started. Okay, I’ll go do this other thing.’ So I guess I learned a lot about how to really get stuck in quick, try to figure out what those quick wins are that create confidence and momentum, they may not be the, you know, silver bullet. But if people don’t feel a sense of momentum they start to give up too soon so you gotta go in and you gotta like get a little something. And also, once someone tells you it’s time to move on, don’t hold on, you just, it just create pain for yourself and others everybody to let go. You just gotta let it go. What do you have faith that what’s in front of you is also going to be, you know, amazing.
Adam: What you just said is, is remarkable to me about, you got to get those quick wins your, your way you’re kind of able to recall those bullet points of oh this is what works internally, how has that changed now that you’re consulting and you’re on the outside again consulting organizations, as, as a voice of the, you know, a neutral observer, if you would.
Katie: Yeah.
Adam: How do you apply that how does that change how you think about their business and their brand?
Katie: Yeah, I feel like it’s so funny, as you’re saying that these like three buckets popped into my mind like one is pulling from muscle memory of, you know, almost two decades working in agency environment. You get really good and quite natural at being the outsider who’s meant to be the service provider that provocateur rocket or insight like the person who sees it clearly because you’re not in the woods, all that kind of stuff. So there’s that. Then there’s like the experience I had at Nike being moved around a lot and being the new kid, a lot.
Adam: Yeah, having to start over a lot. You’re like a military kid.
Katie: Kind of, yeah, around like oh I gotta make new friends. ‘Okay. I can I can do this.’ And so, like now when I’m interfacing with clients, I just, it kind of feels like I’ve been put in a new job, like, ‘Oh, what’s your name? How long have you been here? How does this team interface with the other teams?’ like I would if I was an actual employee on that team, or in that company I would have be having the same experience as I am as a consultant because we’re all working through our computer screens. The fact that I’m not there in the office is the same as everybody else yeah nobody has that advantage of the water cooler Oh, so it actually doesn’t feel, you know, disconnected in any way. And then the third bit is just the, what coven has done to everybody psychologically, we’re all a little off balance. Yeah, businesses, a little trepidation because they can’t project, as well as possible. There’s a couple more x factors involved in every equation we’re working on. So, because of that, me coming in, it’s not like you’re either like yay The Outsiders here they’re going to save us or OSHA, there’s an outsider here they don’t know what are they, what are they doing, what are they doing here, you know, now it’s like, well, couldn’t hurt to have another good brain on this you know it’s more the, the feeling that people. So it’s, it’s kind of okay like it’s fine if I can pull from my history. I already know how to work this way and working in innovation is messy. And that’s kind of been where I’ve dabbled or really tried to steer my career as best as one can do such a thing. And I like the messiness, I think I get a lot of energy from the entropy that’s going on, and the end then there’s always an interesting moment of taking this messy organic alive flexing evolving thing. Yeah. And then, it has to plug into an operation realized entity that is doing everything it can to just hold it fixed position then be really efficient. And that’s, that’s a whole other dance that we’re different skill set. Yeah. How does that. Do you like that part as well or do you like finding the mess and figuring out how to navigate the mess and turn that into yeah oh this is the, here’s the problem at the center of this mess.
Adam: Yeah.
Katie: I think, as I’ve gotten, as I’ve gotten older, where my all the juiceis for me is in the in the front end and the exploration and discovery.
Adam: Yeah.
Katie: And I think there’s been times in my career where I’ve actually tried to stay away from the operationalization part, because it. It just was harder for me to naturally do. And also, it felt like that was the part where you had to make Sophie’s Choice a lot you had to pull some of the magic out of something in order to make it fit the machine and, yeah, it wasn’t as much fun, I guess. But now I’m finding actually the fun in that really difficult challenge because that’s where the scale is. And so if you want to. Some things you make you want to make them small and precious and keep them small and precious. And they you know there’s less editing to be done but if you really want to make a stamp in the world, you really want to change the behavior and this is where a lot of like the stuff around purpose comes into play for me like you want to get a company to use different kind of energy, or to use a different manufacturing process, or to use different logistics or to create a new business model scale is required.
Adam: Yes, turn something on that really changes the headspace around an entire industry even.
Katie: So I have forced myself to reevaluate my relationship with the operationalization phase of this work, and to just find the joy in it, create the joy in it, and it. It’s not always easy because it is not my DNA wheelhouse. but I’m making it something I’m good at anyway.
Adam: Is that part of what you’re discovering through consulting or did that already start in your last job and you’re, you’re realizing like ‘Oh I see,’
Katie: That was my lesson from Nike Nike was the largest organization, aside from it that I’d ever worked at. Adam: Yeah.

You just read this whole thing? Hmm. If you’ve got time on your hands, you might like Specific or Under Think It.


Katie: And because of the impact of culture that Nike has the scaling of solutions and ideas and opportunities is really where you know that, just like the benefit of going through the hard work of working at a company like that is to see something happen at a really large scale. So in order for that to happen. Yeah, I had to get over something that felt, particularly and friction filled. And I don’t know that I’ve totally mastered it yet. I still kind of bristle sometimes that I have to do that kind of work but but I certainly understand why it’s important how to do it well what it looks like when it’s done well who to partner with how to assess whether it’s working. You know, so I’ve got my suite of tools that I can lean on.But it was, it wasn’t something I knew going into Nike I think it’s really Nike taught me that.
Adam: And do you, is that as you’re moving forward, and you’re, you’re figuring out what you’re going to do next. Are you leaning into more of the exploration part and trying to find those or are you looking for those opportunities where there’s an operational element that you because you want to either see it through or pick up on an insight and, and help scale that solution that-
Katie: Now I have to admit, I’m looking for. It’s almost like when you worked at an agency and you’re like this amazing creative idea, but there’s no production money. Yeah, it’s like that, that a creative idea is amazing. I’m so happy we had it No one’s going to see it we’re not going to make it. I’ve realized the bigger scale version of that or the or the large brand or operationalization version of that is you can you can do a pilot program, but if you don’t operationalize it, it’s like it never.
Adam: Yes, so you end up with the best deck, in the world of results that nobody will ever know.
Katie: I ran a pilot program for six months, really. congratulations, then what happened, nothing.
Adam: Yeah,
Katie: Like I do, I’m now seeking out the opportunities to take a seed to a scale responsibly, you know, not everything needs to scale and some of that isn’t negotiation of what the scale mean for this particular situation. But I’m realizing it’s just with without that hard work, or at least the work that’s hard for me. Things don’t become real enough to be satisfying. So I’m kind of looking for those things I mean there’s been a couple that’s been the funny thing about going from working at Nike to being kind of I’m calling it ‘rewilding.’ Rewilding because I used to be in the lead. Working on agencies and all different kinds of brands and then you, then you kind of get married and you work on one brand for a while and, and then you’re kind of like rewilding again.
Adam: I’m running free, Katie is free.
Katie: Touch every flower. And so, And so I’ve been doing a lot of conversation. I’m talking to companies that I would like to work with someday and introducing myself Hi I’m a free agent maybe we could work together someday. Yeah, and I’m fielding phone calls and even instigating phone calls with recruiters. Hey, just wanted you to know what I know how to do, you’re out there talking to people if anything seems interesting ping me, maybe we can make something interesting happen. I’m getting I’m doing interviews like right now I’m coming into, you know, the final stages of a couple really interesting roles that are really totally different from each other but either one could be a not at all Central’s job and job jumping off thanks so you’re like okay i’m not sure what that means either I’m just going to keep following this path and see where it leads. And then I’ve also talked to, like, a couple other scenarios in which are things I had never even dreamed could be possible where you kind of coordinate and collaborate with like a VC who says, could we could we create fractional relationships with our portfolio of startups, you could give a third over here and another third over there, because they need your experience but they can’t pay for you know full time and maybe you don’t even want to go full time and so these scenario that I couldn’t even conceive of, you know, like a year ago. I’m kind of playing around with all of them just to kind of see what feels good and in a weird way as a, as a kind of a strategy person who kind of was so called trained as much as you get trained as a strategist coming up through agencies, you just it’s more like you’re guided and you’re you’re pushed off the ledge and occasionally you have really good people you can model yourself after, but through that training I just feel like I’m now applying I’m applying that sort of method or process to myself. Okay, there’s a brief what’s the brief. I’m now in a pivot from one type of employment to another type of employment. What do I want that future employment to be I’d like it to be sustainable in the fact that I have two kids and I’d like to see them every day.
Adam: That would be be nice.
Katie: Yeah, and I have I have outdoor ambitious I’d like to go camping and hiking and do things that take time I want to be able to indulge in that I used to like to travel, I’d like to be able to travel again. I have, you know, certain things that I feel are important to me. So, I have given a brief to myself to try to figure out how do I create the next chapter of my career that fits into this, this, this brief aspiration. So in order to solve that brief it’s like, go do some discovery. Yeah, research, talk to people try some things I’ve taken on a couple jobs where I’m like nope not gonna do that again. Hell no. Like, I’m cutting that that was potentially even a part of my past, but I do not want to revisit that work ever again I’ve moved on. So, but what I wouldn’t know unless I taken that brief.
Adam: Did that work had the experience of not enjoying it. And I wanted to touch it again, is that work that you’ve decided to leave behind it. Are you have you decided your past it because you’ve already done it and experienced it and you know you can do it, Now, later. Now that you’ve had other experiences in between it’s just not your cup of tea anymore or do you know where you’re able to figure out what it is about those projects?
Katie: It’s a, I think it’s a forced ranking. Because, you know like, after having bopped around like like you kind of pull it out and I can do lots of different things. But I now have a finite amount of time because the brief that I’ve given myself, is to work at a really high level. It’s slightly less than, than full time.
Adam: Yep,
Katie: And hopefully maintain, you know, a financial comfort level that still allows us to not change radically our living and still gets my kids into college and a couple of years. And so that’s kind of the brief at the nuts and bolts level. And so you’re like, Okay, I need to find work that pays well and paste for what I’m able to do. And, and commiserate value of what I’m providing, yeah. Not all of the things I know how to do can be graded equal on that scale. And also I different joy from different kinds of work now to and intellectual satisfaction I would think, intellectual satisfaction. Yeah, and I just, again, having being a person who kind of chases things that haven’t been done before. I do tend to lean into what I have no idea how we do that. I want to do that, as opposed to, I spent 20 years in advertising, why don’t you give me a comp spree if I can, you know, I can, I can spit that out in a couple hours and that’d be really efficient but I don’t know, I mean something really meaningful, I’d like to move on from that.
Adam: Yeah, sounds like what you’re saying is you don’t want to redo the things you’ve already done and that you’ve become really skill that, but you want to build on those skills as, again, as a block to the next problems that you’d like to solve is that a reasonable?
Katie: And I think there’s as always with our new always evolving always flexing communications landscape. It’s, it’s a, it’s more like being a chef in the kitchen, where you’re really blending and you recombining, and you’re prioritizing things that have been done before. There’s so many conversations like even right now just as a tangible example. What’s the deal with social and all these new platforms that wants to deal with audio and wants to deal with NFC, you know, everybody needs to try to figure those things out. Those are really interesting conversations when you’re trying to take, let’s say a startup through that landscape, or you’re taking 155 year old legacy brand through that landscape that can be really fun. But some of those briefs can also be just like want walk, you know like, that seen this a million times so it’s kind of about the twist.
Adam: And I wonder, you know when the NFC things I got a call from a brand that said, we’re interested in NFC is we have an idea we want to talk to you about. And I just thought, I don’t want to get pulled into 20 phone calls in which nothing, there’s nothing is going to come at us and I know it already know, I’m going to pass I’m very busy, do you, how important is it going back to your comment about the operational side and figuring out how to scale, you know create something that will live and will create an impact or is how important is that to you versus creating innovation ideas or territories for innovation that could be fertile and explored through research, but maybe you don’t know how certainly not quite certain that a company really is ready to jump and do it?
Katie: Yeah. I’m, I’m very concerned with like the purity of either the problem, or of the solution. So you could kind of come at it forwards or backwards. Yeah, you can like sweat the solution, meaning or the or the, the product idea or the white space, or the or the service proposition whatever it is like really refine and make it gorgeous. and then test it, and then have a really strong hypothesis that it’s exciting for more than just the people who’ve tested it, and then go scale, but you can also go the reverse to say, and this is also again, the moment we’re in this is some of the stuff that really gets me excited like sustainability as an environmental issue is a huge problem food deserts, and nutrition in in our cities as a problem, our healthcare system, and having it be, you know, democratized and affordable for more is a problem, those are those are scaled scaled problems, men need solutions. So you could take the size of the problem, feed it into sort of the innovation, almost like, bring it upstream into the innovation timeline or sports or slipstream so that as you’re solving, you’re solving in a mind scape of scalability. Not a hypothesis that you know there is a scale the need for this. And that’s baked into the beginning. Other times it’s a hypothesis we think there’s a big need out there for this, or we’d like to create a big need for this. Yeah. and so we’re going to kind of incrementally twist and turn our way forward, we potentially even build with a cohort of passionate
12:40:15 users, and kind of go that way. I think both are really compelling ways forward.
Adam: Yeah. For you it’s about figuring out something that could be executed versus, and we’re working towards something.
Katie: But the most important thing is the purity of the thing so if there is a scaled problem like food deserts. Don’t minimize that problem. Don’t rub off the edges. You don’t pixelate it. Make sure it’s totally respected and every like pain and agony associated with that from like malnourished families and education problems and generally a multigenerational inability to like have a better enhance life than your previous generations like those are like searingly terrible things yeah they’re scary. Don’t rub. Don’t rub the edges off of that bring that pure need, and passion drumbeat, all the way through every pivot point, or the other way which is like we have a really strong belief that the world needs this nobody’s asking for it yet. But we have a hypothesis, but it’s so believe Believe, believe don’t rub the edges off of that belief. Keep it pure. Don’t let the fact that it needs to scale decouple critical pieces of DNA and break down the rarity of, we could get right if we changed it to this yeah and then we weren’t so vigilant about basically the reason we started doing this.
Adam: Yeah.
Katie: Millions more people. That was like okay Don’t, don’t give up on the purity of it too soon. Yeah, don’t let the dollar signs or the pressures from VCs for example like cause you to have an identity crisis. And I think it’s interesting to try to shepherd inventors and innovators through that space. Because, you know, the idea came from somewhere. Don’t let it completely morph into another animal that you don’t even recognize your own child is it like comes up here.
Adam: Yeah, well I, the pressure from VCs or from the, the organization or the business pressure to change, potentially change the shape of it turned it into a Trojan horse that you think, oh, there’s a reason why we’re doing this, but two months later, nobody remembers why you just, you end up with the thing that you, that’s not what we wanted to make.
Katie: Yeah, and the end, humans, that you know, at the end of the day we’re trying to make things for people, where people making things for people. And we’re also people that interact with a bunch of stuff, make choices to download something or not buy something or not have an experience or not. We’re searching for experiences that feel real, tangible, and rich, if humanity. Maintaining the purity of the problem, or the idea, helps you connect. And also gives you something to do good marketing with because without that you’re like why are we even doing this I mean I’m sure you and your history have been given Bruce where you’re like the world does not need this.
Adam: Yeah, why are we, why are we spending $2 million, creating advertising for something that’s a new color, like so, what is because it got away from the purity of why we created today.
Katie: Yeah, or why we should have a compelling story, it doesn’t matter. It’s wallpaper.
Adam: Yeah. That’s sad. You just made a lot of people really sad Katie, a lot of people that are listening to this or what do you think you said something early on about the exploration phase. And you said, I’m just kidding. Now, you thought there was a real gotcha coming at you, you, you mentioned that the idea from going from the exploration phase to operational scale. And I was thinking about the exploration phase and searching around and one of the outputs that you might be searching for is insight and an advertising the insight looks a certain way, a lot of times is, is this, you’ve seen this from a lot of different organizations is the size of the insight, or does the insight take a different form on something that achieves that level of scale operation, or is it pretty consistently. The insight is about, people need or people want, or people behave like this, not like this other way that we thought, you know, is it pretty consistent in your, in your experience.
Katie: I think it depends a little bit what the insight is about. If it’s about a human insight. Then I think, And I’m thinking about like in through the lens of ecosystems now so I’m thinking of like, there’s a brand and the brand has these touch points and sort of like waste stations where you can spend time with the brand. And each of those sort of nodes in the network is an opportunity to reinforce something.
Adam: Yeah.
Katie: If you’re creating a product your product is one of those nodes in the system does the product reflect this human insight. Does the website communicate and function to support that human insight, right, does the app, when you download it and it onboard you into the ecosystem is it asking you questions that reinforce that insight.
Adam: So for you it’s about purity, up and down like, make sure that you’re consistent you’re holding your hand.
Katie: Yeah, and I mean, because I mean let’s think about this. People are ecosystems, I follow you on Twitter for example or I listened to your podcast. And then, I might run into you and we might have a beer. And then I hear about you through other people who have shared relationships with, Maybe you write something and I read it. So, if you were to sound like a completely different human being and all those places and be like, Oh my god, what this person is gets a frantic or is this person even a person.
Adam: Yeah

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Katie: Because I can’t, I can’t put a finger on them I can’t understand them and really can’t grab the person Yeah, you get a sense so a brand needs to kind of think about like, if we’re a brand that’s all about simplicity, privacy and joy, just I don’t know picking three words out of the sky, then that would inform the app download experience, I download the app is it simple. Is it private, is it joy, like the onboard are they asking me a bunch of really weird questions that make me feel like, Oh, my privacy is being infringed upon. Is this a joyful experience are they using languages, it’s like hooray you filled out that form Good job, you know, are these are like a little haptic shake in the, in the handset that kind of gives you a little virtual oh we just gave you a little virtual hug, you know, there’s all these. It’s kind of like it informs so much of what we do. It’s also if that’s who we want to be and how we want to be recognized and measured in the world, then, then it’s also as you do, you know voice of the consumer checks and diagnostics on each one of these nodes in the system the indoor environment and all that kind of stuff. You can check on how are we doing with the privacy, how are we doing with the simplicity, how are we doing with the joy and make sure each of those tenants has been shared that there yeah make sure they’re working in harmony. And then let’s say culture shifts. And now everybody’s, maybe less joyful they’re more sophisticated and serious and we feel like our brand needs to evolve, well then you’d have to kind of re assess each one of these touch points and say how do we not turn it from black to white overnight and relaunch from joy to sophistication, but how do we slowly turn the dial, so that in a six month, 12 month moment, the consumer would feel a natural progression that matches the progression there actually experiencing and culture and in life and how how are we measuring it over time to make sure we’re keeping pace with that expected change or that that understood change that’s happening. And at the end that the nodes in the system are kind of marching forward together, roughly in a similar progress, and I’m talking about this as though it’s easy, it is so.
Adam: Well that’s, I think that’s what expertise is like i think i think expertise is the ability to take something really complicated and distill it down to very simple like here’s three bullet points that pretty cleanly explain it but yeah that you just explained 18 months of focus groups and all the M&Ms, you can handle.
Katie: And it’s really hard, I have to say it’s really hard for, for reasons that are so valid, which is, each of these different nodes in the system that I’m kind of describing and maybe that I hope and I’m not using language that’s really off putting to people it’s like too sterile or something but they all come with their own sort of like functional expertise, like the store environment has a functional expertise, the digital environment has a functional expertise copywriting visual branding. All this stuff right? Product creation. So, when you try to get them to step away from their product expertise, and into a shared space of collective journey mapping customer experience, yes, that can be an eyewitness this myself, that can be traumatizing for people like they are so uncomfortable. Some people are excited by it, even though they don’t know what they’re doing, they kind of leap into footed and I’m so thankful for those people because they give me juice in a way that I can’t get from other ways.
Adam: Yeah,
Katie: But, but I but I also recognize having tried to bend the quarterback for these kinds of assignments, like there is trepidation, there is resistance, there is wholehearted rejection.
Adam: Yes.
Katie: And I feel like that’s actually one of the new bodies of work for our industry. The brand to life in a way that’s, yeah maybe not been done so well before, or we haven’t seen it and its most greatest brilliance yet, because it’s so hard to exercise. Execute. It’s hard you need as the quarterback sometimes I felt like I needed a therapist because you’re you’re absorbing people’s frustration, you’re, you’re trying to assuage their confusion you’re searching for the way to describe things so that everyone who speaks radically different languages in the room can understand it the same way. Yeah, and feel a sense of skin in the game and excitement for it. Having a purpose associated to the work helps because the purpose can be the thing that stitches everyone together, and gives them a desire to try and creates a common language and a common outside of their area of expertise, so that there’s some framework that it’s like I’m a copywriter so I think about it in these terms but I know what I’m aiming for.
Adam: And so does the person who’s thinking about at shelves and what’s that what that’s supposed to be like, yeah, I’m smiling because you’re so clearly explaining that I think what falls apart for agencies and especially as agencies work with their clients is what is strategy mean where does strategy beginning and it’s such a stupid conversation that absolutely is critical.
Katie: Yeah, and it doesn’t need to be had but if you don’t have it, that what you just described is never gets off the ground if everyone doesn’t know how to brief the different individuals uniquely, which is why I love hearing different type of strategist talk about solving different types of problems because then I’m able to go, Oh, that’s right. Someone who’s making a product needs a total a digital product it’s a totally different brief than someone who’s thinking about a retail experience that you can’t just expect a creative brief to solve that, or, or anything. Yeah, I mean I’m, I’m very respectful of the specific discipline, like the strategist that sits on top of specific disciplines like comms planning. Yes, is a specific discipline that requires a certain strategic mind can think very fluidly and really understand all the different channels and mediums and formats. There’s social strategists that need to sit on top of that discipline, which is, so it’s so fast, and they need to be a master of a totally different kind of brand architecture strategy there’s business strategy. So the strategy strategy. Okay, so what do you do with a lot of different kinds. Right. And so, in a weird way to match my Swiss Army format.
Adam: So the army knife.
Katie: I, it’s like I was introduced to brand strategy within the creative realm and branding advertising. And it feels like unintentionally I’ve just been on a journey to see how far the rabbit hole go.
Adam: Yeah,
Katie: Because it’s really for me, what strategy is it’s about looking at a scenario, and moving the camera around to different viewpoints. If you move the camera over here to this elevation level and then you pulled back to the, you know, International Space Station. You can create a macro strategy. Yeah, If you zoom in and you, and you focus on this one particular node in the network, you can write a strategy for that node, taking into account the other continuity between nodes. Yeah, and that there’s a macro strategy that saying we’re going for more engagement, we’re going for more conversion we’re going for hire those you know those notes have to connect to that macro strategy or you want us to feed the up. Step one is to feed the up. Otherwise, each node will have their own strategy, and they’ll fight. And there’s no conflict, they’ll conflict and so they basically neutralize each other, and nothing, nothing meaningful takes place. So, I then there’s also the dynamic of, well, if you’re a global company. What’s the global strategy, versus the regional strategy. The country strategy the city strategy because the globe needs to say. Everywhere we want to drive this sort of macro agenda. Then you go to a certain part place in the world and they’re like that’s actually hyper relevant here or not relevant at all, where. Therefore, we have to figure out what our localized strategy is that still feeds into the macro agenda but is relevant in this part of the business yeah and driving our part of the business meaningfully while not disagreeing with where the global strategy is going so it’s about moving the camera around a lot and so because I’ve worked in roles that are about the macro that are about the discrete digital advertising, media, and about the node in the system, like the app. And then the membership program that cuts through everything it’s totally horizontal it touches everything I am just. I enjoy now. I don’t really want to stop moving the camera and the camera around. And so even if somebody gives me a brief, that’s a very discreet brief, I still move the camera around to interrogate that brief. And if the brief doesn’t say here, here’s, here’s the here’s the thing we want you to do and it doesn’t tell me well what’s the what’s the global strategy, what am I plug it into. Oh, there isn’t one. Well, okay, well it’s probably now let’s let’s let’s back up a second here.
Adam: Yeah. So you’re not your, your vision for your next thing probably it sounds like you’ve rolled out the idea of the orchestrator quarterback roll your it’s more of diving in and kind of thrown your elbows around and finding the edges of the problem is,
Katie: I’m not actually against the quarterback role. Now that I’ve taken my lumps and I, and I’ve learned a lot about it And I can anticipate some of the where the traffic jams are going to be so they don’t stress me out, you know and and so I can maybe even try to avoid some of them. I also just think they’re it’s not a bug, it’s a feature like it’s just part of the process. Yeah, so not seeing it as a problem but just as you know, it is what it is it’s how we get from point A to point B, whatever. I’m excited by the idea that it’s hard. I’m excited by the idea that there aren’t experts in this space that they probably won’t be experts in this space, because it keeps changing so much. And I have to say that’s one of the things that really drew me to digital in the beginning. And now into this work now is there will not be experts. If someone, someone posted this week on Twitter I can’t remember who it was. Instead of somebody who’s claiming that they’re an expert. And they, they’re lying and I think I came back to him saying yeah they basically just added themselves as as a charlatan.
Adam: Yeah
Katie: Because it’s changing too hard and too fast for anybody to know everything. Yeah, you need to know enough to be dangerous and know how to get to the bottom of questions but
Adam: I’ve said nobody’s late but some people early.
Katie: Yeah but but nobody’s like an expert. Yeah, you have to you have to keep it keep going, Yeah, like a shark you gotta keep moving. Otherwise, you know, it’s hard to, it’s hard to have a sharp opinion.
Adam: Are you the kind of person when you get a simple problem. Do you still move the camera around until it becomes like created as a challenge for yourself like get it to the point where you’re really beat it up so much that you’re, you’re going to just give it the same rigor, even if it was you know the simplest problem that you’re like oh yeah this brief was correct. from the beginning, this was this is perfect.

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Katie: Yeah, I, I just don’t like solving in a vacuum. And so, I actually was given a brief recently that was two sentences. And I was like, Okay, yeah. I don’t like this, this is, this is now I’m triggered, like I need, I need more context so much more context you kept scrolling trying to scroll and another page or maybe these two sentences, this didn’t work. Tell us what we should have done. Like, ‘I have so many questions right now.’ So, I, you know, to get out of my own head I quit I just listed all my questions and then I thought okay if I could get another 15 minutes with this person. What are the most critical questions that we need to ask so when I got to my shortlist, and I was able to get 15 minutes with this person. And so I said ‘Here’s my questions I need these answers. If you’re willing to give them to me’ and they said ‘Yes, here they are. Here you go.’ And it still wasn’t as much as I would like but it was just enough to where, when I was asked to now come back with my response to that brief, I was able to say, all of you people that in presenting to you all worked on this thing you know why it didn’t work, and I don’t, so here’s what I’m here’s how I’m solving this, I am going to read contextualize this assignment based on what I see and from an outside in, and I’m going to solve it from my, my new contextualize point of view.
Adam: And some of what I might be hitting on you will be familiar to you as, hopefully, much of it is stuff that you hadn’t thought of right or one of one of you knew about but the other eight of you didn’t know about.
Katie: Yeah. And I what I was hoping to do is basically move their camera to a new lead to a new angle and reframe the assignment in a way that if we, and I said that you what you’re asking me to do is 2020 hindsight and how many people ever get to do that. So okay, I get to do that now. And here’s what I would have done differently. But that brief really freaked me out like two sentences it’s amazing and terrifying. Yeah. Yeah. Like this is so clean it’s too clean. Oh, well, Katie This is awesome.
Adam: Thank you so much. I am glad we got a chance to speak so thank you for making time for me.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. It’s my pleasure as a lot of fun on a Friday.
Adam: Where can people find you online or wherever you’d like them to find you?
Katie: Yeah, I’m on Twitter and the things, it’s usually first name last name is my handle, and then I have a little just one page your website that’s just kind of holding holding ground on the World Wide Web for now until I can figure out what I want to do next.