Interview with Grace Kok

Join me as I have a conversation with Grace Kok, Head of Content Marketing Lark in ByteDance in Singapore. 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.

Hi, my name’s Julian Cole, and I’m here with Grace Kok. who is head of content marketing at Lark at byte dance. Thanks for joining Grace. My first question to you is what are your three pieces of advice for strategists? Yeah, thanks for having me Julian. So, my first piece of advice would be. No, that your experience is valuable.

However, sometimes your ideas might be worthless until they are tested or have some basis behind it because, just because you think it’s a good idea, doesn’t mean it is so test-retest and don’t believe your own hype at the end of the day. Yeah. At the end of the day, a great strategy poorly executed is a bad strategy.

Yeah. And one way to test it is to do the mom test, which I’m a pretty, fanned off really as to just your strategy on your mom, if she doesn’t understand it, that it’s too complex. I love that. Yeah. I had heard of that, like trying to explain your job to your mom, being one of your first ones, but I love the idea of explaining, your strategy to your mom.

I’ll I’ll have to remember that one. That’s great. Yeah. Don’t underestimate your mom.

Okay. The next one, the second one is really finding a good balance of important setup slides to your strategy, making sure it’s not too long. And I’m sure you’ve heard of it, right? Like you have hundred-page strategies before it gets to the creative. But at the end of the day, you have to really understand that, our job is to make the creative juicy.

So think of it, like, you’re trying to marinate it and have it well seasoned. So by the time, it’s being served to client, they’re so ready to eat and they kind of wait to dig into it. So don’t make it too long. I like it. I like it like the, seasoning of the creatives as well. It’s like, I’ve never thought of it like that, but it does make a lot of sense.

That’s great. And the final one, which is kind of my favorite. Which is, don’t be afraid of negative messaging. So yeah. Dumb waste day would have been safe ways to travel in Singapore. Yeah. Messaging, you know, think really carefully about it and don’t be afraid to use negative messaging, which can have more impact.

Yeah. Like that’s the, there’s a big thing there of like people always shy away from like the consumer problems or talking about problems as well, but that is. You’re right. That is where the tension kind of lies. Love, love those three pieces of us. I’d love to hear grace, how you got to where you are.

Like you’re now head of content marketing in Singapore at luck. It’s amazing. Amazing role. So what, what was your journey? Okay. Just to summarize it, if you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, but, three main things, hot graft people who are willing to take a chance to me. And the third thing constantly pushing for the highest quality of work.

Now for the Storytime. Yeah. I started from the bottom. So really intern and all. Yeah, I was in Australia, a strategist. I didn’t have the word strategy, my title. And, based on my experience, at the agency only strategists, while that to practice, it was like a little batch. And, when I started it, wasn’t fluid.

So if your entry point in the industry that didn’t allow it to pivot as much, you would have to take on more in your day, to get accepted into creating strategy. And I’m aware it’s not the same. You might come from somewhere, but it do allow you to flex and be a bit more hybridized. But, where I was at, I did have to put my hand up quite a bit, so I could, uh, help with the more senior strategist with research competitor, competitor analysis, or jets, and really take on that extra work so that I could somewhat prove to them that I was also worthy of helping even in the background.

Which helped a lot. So, I started at Ogilvy and as you know, it’s, I won’t go too much into it. I’m sure if you guys are already in the industry, you probably know, what it feels like to be in a network agency. I started out in social, which also meant I had to take on several roles my by default.

So I was doing, content ideation, social media advice. I might playbooks, social listening, community management, even account liaison. So it was a lot, but to me it wasn’t enough to be a, a strategist, a full-blown strategist, which is why I didn’t put my hand up to, to help, and to learn. And, that’s really the foundation of, who I am.

You know, regardless of whatever you do in your day job, always try to have a growth mindset. You know, there’s always something to learn from other people as well, which is why I say find out who is around, who can help you and who are willing to share, those things along the way. It is very important, especially as you are growing in this journey.

Yeah. So from on, after Ogilvy, I was given the opportunity to, work at Facebook. Adobe was under a contract role, but it was fine with me again, I was eager to learn and the scope was very similar to devil’s strategist of because it included measuring insights. They were available at Facebook. If that of verticals.

That it will looking after. So once I’ve compiled all of that insight and research and analysis, they will be presented or shared with clients of large accounts in Southeast Asia. So I, yep. it was part of the role that, allowed me to build a lot of presentations, a lot of decks. It was like being in a.

I was personally, I felt like a factory of churning out decks, constantly. It was just fun because, it really taught me how to create a sort of flow, create a certain story behind audit data and all of that, you know, dry topics of, of learning about what’s happening instead of market, because you do have to make it interesting to your clients, right.

And after that I was, asked to be a lead strategist at Hogan and Hogan is actually one of the largest production houses set of WPP. Hmm. And they were making things a bit more, holistic for nip point of view. So instead of just sticking with traditional production, they were also doing other things like creative work, and they were pitching for new business as well.

And I helped them with quite a bit of pitching as a strategist. So my show that on my first day, I do remember that the team wasted no tie in having me meet a client. And I was, yeah, very, very quick. And it was new pictures other way. Well, it was quite refreshing because when you’re in a production house, they actually are the makers that it do are able to make the stuff that you pitch for.

And it was refreshing because the clients are also would not limit it to a certain platform or, or a single type of output. So that was fun. And, after that, I’m now here at, by dance, hitting up content marketing for Lark. And to talk a little bit about lock is that we are a B2B collaboration and communications app.

We have, all the features such as messaging chats, video conferencing, uh, shared drive and. It’s really free to use. So, when I, when I thought about it, I was like, yeah, this is really the future of work, you know? And it’s something that’s purposeful. So I think that’s also quite important for someone who’s so interested in strategy, you do want to find purpose for work at the end of the day.

And I think I’m really fortunate that the role that I am, allows me to express it on, on a daily basis, so that. You know, it, it helps with the energies as well because the day to day, what, as, you know, work is work right. But having the purpose behind it is quite important as well. And because of that, I see myself really, um, pushing for more creative work, mock daring ideas and making use of my strategy roots to match it to the business goals.

Because now being on the client site, you are a lot closer to the business side of things. They have to be quite tangible. They are hot targets and goals, so you can actually get a sense of the full journey. Yeah. And so at the end of the day, I often feel like I’m a day one strategist, where, it’s always day one for me, constantly learning and always needing to solve problems.

Yeah. That’s kind of it. It’s a great journey. And I feel like you’ve gone through so many different types of roles in different types of companies. What, what did you find the hardest thing about moving outside of an agency? So Hogarth to, bite dance. What was the hardest thing to translate the first strategist from going from like agency side to client side?

I think it’s because in a lot of cases, when you’re on the agency site, you’re not privy to the types of, complex market problems that a business might have, like, for example, entry into the market with a brand new product that a lot of people are not aware of. This is something that as a strategist, you don’t actually come in that early.

You do come in quite late. Yeah. A lot of buy-in has already been done in the backend. Right. Well, when you’re on the business side of things, there has already been a lot of selling and the marketing team, or even the innovation team who has resulted to the bosses. So by the time he reaches the agency, it has already been in a place where the client is ready to take the leap.

So when you’re in an agency that is really on the alpha beta stage of really trying to make that strategy work. Yep. And, and you’ve been a member of the planning dirty academy for a while. Now. I’d love to hear what have you found most valuable, in your role now, because now being client-side as well, is there anything that’s been valuable that you’ve learned from that.

Yeah, quite a bit. So, obviously if you’re new to, Playing Dirty Academy, the first place you should start, would it be the 10 best strategy papers? So that’s what got me hooked on best. Cause it was, it was just great to see, good strategy, good creative being put to use actionable in the real world.

And then from Dell, look at what you need. It’s really about what you need. So if you are working on, say a comms plan, any you need, some idea about how that might work, then go into comms planning. If you need to know how to write a better creative brief, or how to work with creatives, that is a different thing altogether.

And go look for that. So I, I feel that dirty playing is quite holistic. It has a lot of, bits and parts where any, anyone of different stages. In your journey, like, even though you, you might consider yourself, oh, I’ve been in the business for more than 10 years, I’ve been in business for 15 or whatever.

There are always new frameworks and new strategies that you can learn from. And also I think the community is quite inspiring to everyone’s, quite eager to share what they found out, certain trends if noticed. And, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Yeah, that’s great. Excellent. Thank you so much, grace.

It was great speaking. Thank you so much for having me.


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