I don’t hear the words, “change agent” too often these days and that’s okay. Buzzwords never contain much value in the first place. But let’s not confuse the buzzy name for the work. The work of a change agent is to make a difference by recognizing what must change, and then having the chops and influence to change it.
The best brand strategists are change agents.
In September, I wrote: When hiring a strategist you’re looking for an alchemist and visionary who is informed by data but not constrained by it. A change agent who will do more than challenge the status quo. A person who is not content with simply providing business insights to the creative team.
Three Mission Critical Slides from BasicArts
Alex M H Smith, founder of BasicArts in London, is a writer and strategist that I’m paying close attention to these days. Strategy can be an obtuse study, but he makes it all sound logical and straightforward.
Let’s look at the following three slides from a recent deck that Smith posted to LinkedIn.
Notice how “playing it safe” is not an option for the professional who demands change. Playing it safe means coming to the table with no new ideas to win the attention and loyalty of existing and prospective customers. Playing it safe means you hardly even tried.
Bravery: Put It In The Job Description
It’s never easy to challenge people—especially clients who pay the bills—to do more and/or be more if that’s not where they’re coming from. Plenty of companies (and careers) make it to their intended destination on cruise control. I could be judgy about it, but how does that solve anything?
To make things better for the customer takes a strong desire to advocate for them, and the ability to see things through their eyes. When you do that, there’s an element of risk involved, because adopting a customer-first POV may set certain leaders with large egos off. They may see it as adversarial. It’s not at all, but perception matters, and many leaders and people close to them insist on drinking their own Kool-Aid.
When you are able to think and speak frankly without penalty, you’re with the right people in the right place to meet the elevated standards that are intrinsic to counseling decision-makers at the brand who are about to invest hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, on the recommendations offered. I like this frame for the strategist’s job because it ups the challenge, and when this greater challenge is met consistently across the board, we’ll have better brand communications and better things to communicate.