Interview with Alex Judd

Join me as I have a conversation with Alex Judd, Head of Impact and Planning at Clarity PR in England. As he shares his 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, his strategy journey, and what he found most helpful in joining The Planning Dirty Academy.

There we go. Welcome back. We’ve got Alex Judd, who’s head of impact and planning at clarity PR in London today. Alex, thanks for coming on the show. First thing I’d love to know is what is yours? Three pieces of advice for strategists.

Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me, Julian. Delighted to be here. Three best three pieces of advice for me.

The first one. I was thinking about this and I think it’s a tried and tested tip by well worth reiterating in terms of treating every brief, like a clean slate. I think it sounds really easy. And particularly if you’re someone who’s starting a strategy and learning about what strategy is and the process you’ll hear it a lot, but I think once you.

Get to the coalface of it. It’s actually more difficult than it sounds when you have those deadlines swooping in or you’ve answered what looks like a very similar brief before. It’s kind of all too easy in your mind is shortcut that process and think, Oh, that sounds a lot like that. So I could probably use.

You know, this, this research and maybe even some of the same slides and, you know, you start to make those shortcuts in your minds and you’re using assumptions, then you’re repeating similar conclusions. And, but I think keeping that fresh perspective is so, so important because it just shows in the work.

So that would definitely be my number one. And number two would be. Number two for me would be created strategic culture internally. I think strategy can sometimes be seen as this kind of mysterious magic box. Um, you know, you give it to that department or that person over there and some magic happens and then it comes back and, you know, there’s, there’s fireworks at the end, but I think there’s a lot of value in making sure that everyone who’s answering the brief and delivering on the work should have a grounding in strategy.

And what the strategic process is. Because firstly, you’re going to have more critical, constructive conversations about the strategy itself. People are going to stress, test it with you and really make it Bulletproof. So going back to those, you know, you’re making assumptions and what have you on that previous to treating every brief, like a clean slate, that’s really going to help make sure that’s not going to happen.

And actually, secondly, um, you’re going to get a lot more belief and a lot more buy-in from the work both internally. And that’s really going to show during the presentation back, whether that’s a pitch or just a presentation to a client, you know, you can see whether people are genuinely infused by what they’re presenting and believe in it.

And that’s going to show because of that belief as well, actually, the work’s going to be better. Um, It’s a, it’s a common sale. But the does remind me of the story when JFK was just in NASA in 1961, introduced themselves to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. And the janitor replied.

I’m helping to put a man on the moon now, obviously, you know, nearly all, if not all of the time, we’re never doing anything anywhere near as important as that, but it’s still very important for everyone. Has that belief and everyone has no, sorry, what that ultimate goal is as a people are going to be working on it more and deliver better work result.

I think my last tip is as kind of be best friends with the creative process. I think, um, particularly in, um, in a PR setting as well, we tend not to have such, um, But the process is quite different. So creative can be something that is actually just democratized across the business, as opposed to sort of leaves with a certain department.

Um, and the same in a lot of agencies with strategy and planning and what have you. So yeah. But regardless of that, where you can, if you read an appetizing assessment, I think your strategy is only is going to be as good as the creative minds here. And so sometimes, you know, if they do, if they’re disjointed, that really shows, you know, if you’ve got this strategy heading in one direction and then the creative goes into another, there’s going to be too much tension there.

And then it’s not going to quite make enough sense. So in the same vein, talking about before about. Getting everyone on board and that belief in a strategy, I think creative is really where to focus and make sure that the strategies that you come up with and that you create is one that is really, is that guiding light for the creative idea.

Um, and not just, and then once it’s over with the creatives, you know, talk to them and work with them and be there throughout that process as lot, as much as they want you to be, um, to make sure that that idea really works. I think it would be a mistake to think that your work and when you deliver quote unquote, the strategy and you can kind of let it, let it run wild.

Um, so yeah, they they’d be my baby, my three. I love the idea of making strategy everyone’s job. I think there’s, there’s, that’s something that I’ve kind of always held to be true is don’t think that you’re someone special just cause you’ve got strategy in your title. Let it be everyone’s job to do strategy.

And when you open it up, Then more people want it, that they’re requiring it and coming to you for it. And I think that’s a big mind shift. I think for a lot of people when they get into strategy, because they think close the doors, it’s this amazing thing that happens behind, behind closed doors. But really it’s not, it’s something you work on with a group and the creative process.

I love that. Alex. I’d love to hear. I see strategy becoming bigger and bigger in PR. So I’d love to hear your journey. Um, and, and how you think strategy is growing in PR too. Yeah, sure. Well, we, funny enough, my dad’s, um, was a newspaper princess, so it always used to come back with, um, stacks of newspapers back when I was a kid.

And so I’d be reading them at a dinner time and it’s only recently I made that connection as to why I got into PR. Um, so I’d actually find the actors did a degree in PR, uh, but, but with university, um, went out into industry. And did a lot of consumer PR, um, which I really, really enjoy really fun. Yeah.

But I found that my clients were always asking, so what does that mean when we presented the results back? You know, in PR you would get, say, if you’re say, Oh, we’ve got X number of pieces of coverage for you. And they’d be like, great. So, you know, what does that mean for the business? And we as PR really struggled to answer that question.

So I started to drift more into, um, social media, social media, um, management. And that was obviously very easy to show the quote unquote results of your work, even if it is a little bit more, um, tangentially like clicks and impressions and engagements, and you can just put it in two seconds. So I could see client budgets from my clients anyway, slow.

They were investing a lot more in the social side of things. And maybe not paying so much attention to the PR anymore, so I could see that direction of travel. So I ended up going full digital marketing for a few years, um, to kind of hone my craft there and then went back into PR after that, to try and sort of connect all the dots together and say, right, well, we know PR has essentially an attribution problem, but how do we, how do we fix that?

So I think. It’s a book. I would like to think one of the strengths that I have is, is I have quite a kind of agnostic background. I do understand a lot of different channels and the execution and how they work. Um, but I’ve also. I mean both my personal and my private life. I’m a massive overthinker. I think I’ve been sewed it’s my, um, my wife has told me, I suppose my biggest strength, my biggest weakness, uh, you know, if I’m like booking a hotel room, if I’m going away, I’m looking at all the reviews, I’m making all these things on it.

It pays off because I’ll end up being very satisfied with that, you know, with that hotel choice. But. I get, I look back and I think I’ve actually made a, made a job out of my, my thinking a lot, you know? Um, so yeah, that’s been my, my sort of journey into strategy as well. And you’ve been a member of the planning duty Academy for a while now.

So I’d love to hear what you found most valuable. Oh, I think the planning dirty Academy is a really pretty impressive work, really invaluable. Um, I think if I had to sum up what I, what I got from it, it would be structure, which sounds really small, but actually it’s totally game changing because as I was saying, you know, as personal kind of thinks a lot, actually having that process outlined in front of you and also the different approaches to strategy, um, Really really helps hone your thoughts and be able to come to that proper strategic conclusion because research is, is in essence, a never ending task you can go on for as long as you like, but you need that piece at the end.

Um, and so yeah, for me, it’s, it sounds small, but actually it’s yeah, totally game changing. The structure of strategy is what I learned. Excellent. Thank you so much for, uh, sharing your story with us, Alex. Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.