Interview with Anna Martin

Join me as I have a conversation with Anna Martin, VP of Communications Planning and Strategy at 22squared. As she shares her 3 pieces of advice for a  strategist, her strategy journey,  and what she found most helpful in joining the Planning Dirty Academy. 

Excellent. Hello and welcome. My name’s Julian Cole. And today we’ve got Anna Martin. Who’s a VP of communications, planning and strategy at 22 squared. So thank you so much, Anna, for being here. My first question to you is what is your three pieces of advice to strategists? Well, thank you for having me.

Number one. I am so thrilled to be here. Um, and. So my three pieces of advice, the first one, um, is one that has taken me a while to learn. Um, but is patience and persistence, um, that this is a job that you do not learn in the first day and the first year in the first 10 years. Um, I don’t think I have a complete handle on it now.

And I’ve been, been doing it for almost 15 and it’s. Patience in knowing that it’s going to take out some, some time for you to wrap your brain around the process. I think there there’s a. Malcolm Gladwell, 10,000 hours, um, that, that comes back. Um, and in the beginning of your career, it’s easy to not think about that and say, no, that’s not going to be me.

Learn it earlier. I’m going to get it earlier. Um, but it, it does, it takes time and it takes. That, that persistence in wanting to learn more and being a student and always being a student or always knowing that there’s going to be something else that you don’t know that’s gonna come your way. Um, so patience and persistence is definitely, uh, one that I keep in mind.

I, for a while I had it on a post-it right on my monitor, um, just to ground myself and keep myself. Yeah, on, on the path that I knew I was going on. Um, and also advice that I wish I could have had a little bit earlier in my career that you don’t always need to move to the next job, um, that there, there is.

Sometimes there’s more to learn, um, at, at what you’re doing. If you, um, if you kind of. Take a step back and are patient and think about what you can learn. Um, so that’s one, um, uh, second one is not doing needs research. Um, trying very much to take myself out of the equation when I’m thinking about strategy and thinking about the way that I’m pushing strategy.

Um, because I know that as a person in advertising and marketing, I know more than almost any consumer. But that, that I’m ever going to be talking to about the way that the way that it all works and how, how all of these different pieces fit together and what marketing is trying to do that most people have no, no clue about it.

And so. My it’s not that I’m not a consumer, but it’s not that my, my experiences are not going to be that helpful in pushing the strategies where they need to go to be truly consumer centric and truly useful for a person that we’re, we’re trying to, to reach. Um, so taking that, that research out of the equation, that’s something I try to.

To put to my teams to, um, when it’s really easy to go into, well, well, this is the way I do it. And I shop this way. Um, or, or I think about something this way, or I have noticed this social ad and it’s saying no, um, think of, think about a person that, that isn’t you, that doesn’t have your context, um, and make sure that you’re backing it up with that kind of data, not me search.

So, um, and then the third one is that the job is what you make of it. Um, and no, one’s going to tell you what to do. Um, you can certainly get advice from people. Um, and there’s a lot of places where you can get it advice these days, even many more than, than when I started out. But I’d say that you it’s in your hands, it’s in your hands, how hard you work, it’s in your hands, how curious you are, it’s in your hands, the kinds of jobs that you’re going to be looking for.

Um, and, and what those jobs ended up being. Um, and, and obviously there are other factors. Um, but thinking about the fact that. That you, you can be the guide. Um, and, and you, and no one will really, no, one’s going to tell you what to do. No, one’s going to give you a roadmap. That’s going to be your perfect strategy career, uh, laid out and, and just making sure that you’re having, having the right perspective and attitude, um, and then saying yes, and, and pushing forward as much as possible.

So I’d say those are. Those are three that I would think about there, there are a bunch more that have popped into my mind, but I think those three definitely rose to the top. I think it’s really interesting the idea of the title of strategy too, and kind of your first and second point point to it. Like when we get the title of strategist, I think there’s this.

Feeling back to your first point of like, I’m going to have all the answers now, but it’s like, like that. And it’s not like saying you’re an accountant and you, yeah, no, exactly. You’re going to do the tax books and this, at this time of the year, it’s a lot of that last point as well. It’s just what you make of it.

And that’s really hard, I think for a lot of people, but like, Or once you understand that it really helps clear stuff up. Yeah, definitely. Um, and, and to that point that I think people get, get wrapped up in that strategy title and feel like you have to know the answer. Um, and, and you don’t like that, that it’s, it’s, it’s one of these things where it’s okay.

If you don’t know the answer, um, and part of, part of it and part of moving forward and being a strategist is, is understanding that a little bit too. Yeah. And I’m definitely stealing that word. I’ve never heard of me search and I’m like, oh my God. Yes, totally being the guy doing me-search before. So, uh, I love that.

Um, Anna, I’d love to hear about your past. How did you get to where you are today? Sure. Uh, well, I started out as a temporary receptionist, uh, at 22 squared. It was right during the, uh, the financial crisis in about 2008. And I needed a job, um, that I, I knew that I wanted to do something creative. I had gone to school for film and TV.

But that was not the path by it’s one. The analogy I use is just because you love to eat doesn’t mean you need to own a restaurant just because he loved watching film and TV and love. All of that doesn’t mean you need to work in it. Um, but I knew I wanted to do something, something creative, um, and I didn’t know much about it.

About advertising and I got this temp job. Um, and I just liked, I liked the feel of an agency. It felt like they were my people and, and the kinds of things they were thinking about were kinds of things that I was interested in. Um, and so the temp, the temp job ended, um, I tried my very hardest, I, I put on my best.

Um, and did, did my best to network as much as I could at that level, which is not, not a very high level. Um, and then a couple of months later, someone actually called me back and said that they had a full-time receptionist position. Um, and so I got in the door there and, um, and just again, was just curious and ask questions and, and knew that it was something that I wanted to do.

Um, and I was very fortunate in. Uh, the agency I worked at, there is a strategist who has since passed away, unfortunately in Griffin, Farley. And he took me under his wing. I think noticed that I was curious beyond just the reception desks and, and had some interesting thinking. And so he taught me about what strategy was, um, and was really like a very early coms planner, even though at that time, comms planning was not as much of a much of a thing as it is now.

Um, and, and gave me the right direction and tools to really dig into it myself. Um, and then, um, he actually moved on to BBH in, um, in New York and the person who was running the strategy department, um, needed an assistant. And so I, I. Filled in and, and like raise my hand for that role and just continue to raise my hand.

Um, and, and again, I, I can’t put enough emphasis on both hard work and luck, um, that I was very lucky to be at a place where I had some mentors who saw potential in me and allowed me within the parameters of the job that I had at at the time, which was a very low level, not strategy job to explore as much as I could, if I was doing that job well, Um, and I, um, I put together actually a deck where I made a case for moving from being an assistant, to being a strategist.

Um, and that was the, that was the diving board into, uh, into the career that I have now. So, um, and then I, um, I was at 22 squared for a while. Um, I moved around to a couple of different agencies to get some different perspective. Um, some more. Digital experience. Um, I worked at a PR agency for awhile, which is very different, um, and a very interesting, kind of, uh, a different look at strategy and the way that strategy works and in terms of overall communications.

Um, but there was an opportunity a few years ago to come back to 22 squared and think about, uh, what a comms planning and comm strategy team looked like. Uh, and it was. The oppor the opportunity I’m in now, um, which has been really interesting. And in growing a department and really shaping what, what our discipline looks like within a broader strategy offer offering.

So that’s the, that’s the 30,000 foot view. There are, there are many more roadblocks and stumbles within, within that, but that’s my path. I dunno if you know this, but, um, I worked with Griffin folly as well at, uh, BBH and no that, no, he did. He, he interviewed me and like, again was kind of pretty instrumental on me and my understanding of.

Uh, engagement planning, which is what they call it there. And, uh, trans media planning, which he was really interested in. Um, who’s fantastic. Fantastic, man. And now such a great legacy for new, uh, strategists with the Griffin Farley, um, strategy project that happens every summer. When you strategize can come along so amazing that we’ve kind of connected in these, these worlds through.

Yeah. Yeah. So funny, the world is so small, but I think Griffin, especially with such a connector, um, and to your point, so many of just the things that we at propagation planning thinking about, it’s just, um, such a trailblazer there, but I I’m glad to. No, his legacy does live on. It does. Um, and with, I know you’ve been, um, big, uh, you’ve been a member of the planning dirty academy for over a year and a half.

Um, I’d love to know if there’s anything that’s been helpful from that so far that you’ve been able to take into your job. So much has been helpful, especially in, um, in coming back and growing and molding a department and being in a really different role, um, than a strategist who’s who’s contributing.

But, um, but moving from that contributor to that leader, um, having a resource. Where I can go if I am hitting a wall and I need to think about things in a different way. Um, back to the fact that I I’m a constant student, um, I take some of the, like the introductory classes on a fairly regular basis just to, to keep myself sharp and to remember that there are always new ways in, um, it’s a huge reason why.

Uh, in terms of, uh, once, once you get to a strategy leadership role, you don’t always have those, those peers to be bouncing things around with people who you can work with. But, um, but it, it sometimes works as that for me, um, where, where I can go in and get some of the insight that I might get from a conversation with a colleague, but it’s just a virtual way of, of doing it.

Um, so, and, and I, the, the framework factory, oh my goodness. Is clutch, um, that it it’s just a jumping off point, um, where I also am a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. Things have had like almost everything’s been done before, and it’s not necessarily just taking, taking something and copying it, but it’s saying, okay, I have a starting place.

Um, and a place where I can, can go and know that I can go through and at least be on a path when it feels like you’re just nowhere. And you’re just. Getting all the ideas together. So, yeah, that’s great. And, and, and for me, that’s kind of the reason I created the more, um, department head management stuff in the academy, because I just didn’t see anything out there of people who had had that experience.

And there’s only a small group of us who are running departments. And so I was like, we need to share that information. So I’m so happy to hear. But it’s helped. There is, uh, there as well. And I think we’re all constant constant students are at least I feel that way. I’m always learning new stuff. So thank you so much, Anna.

Uh, really appreciate the, uh, the advice and, and hearing your journey. Awesome. No, this has been lovely. Thank you so much for having me. Excellent.


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