Interview with Lizzie Bartek

Join me as I have a conversation with Lizzie Bartek, A Brand Planning Director at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. As she shares her 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, his strategy journey, and what he found most helpful in joining The Planning Dirty Academy.

Well, I’m here with Lizzie Bartek, brand planning director at Cramer-Krasselt. I definitely pronounced that wrong. Sorry about that, Lizzie. Lizzie, first question off the rank. I’d love to hear your three pieces of advice for strategists.

Yeah, definitely. Well, thank you for having me. It was a fun exercise to go through and had a lot of ideas, but I think I’ve narrowed it down.

So my first piece of advice is all about collaboration. Find ways to collaborate. I think strategy can feel kind of isolating sometimes are typically on a smaller team or sometimes maybe on a brand by yourself working. But I found that, you know, briefs get better insights get sharper, or strategies are more compelling when you have some sounding board and some feedback.

So I always try to get feedback from the beginning and whether it’s going to, you know, another strategist with some initial ideas, going to my creative directors and bouncing ideas around. I think it just really helps to sharpen things. It also makes you feel a little bit less alone when you’re doing strategy together.

So you don’t have to, you know, not necessarily bring a finished brief in front of people, but I I’m a big fan of the shitty first draft, just getting some shots on paper, getting them in front of people. So that would be my first piece of advice is find, find intersections where you can collaborate with other people and get that feedback from the beginning.

It also helps a lot when you get into a briefing, if you’re someone that does create a briefing. Because then you already have some buy-in from your team, which is nice.

My second piece of advice is question everything. The questions are your friend. So I had a group planning director once gave me some wise advice and said, you know, we’re in a unique position as planners and strategists, to be able to sort of push back gently.

Our job’s all about asking questions to help find focus. And sometimes it’s about, you know, giving a hard truth to a client or disagreeing with them politely. So I think questions are important, you know, at the end of the day of reefer project, without clear focus, isn’t going to get you a very good outcome.

So whenever I’m starting out, I really worked to kind of get through all that jargon or extra words and data and push for questions that get us to the clearest story of what we need to go out and solve. So that’s my second piece of advice. Keep asking questions. And then my third piece of advice is get out of your office or get out of your advertising bubble, whatever that might be.

I think the best strategists or planners that I’ve better. People who have sort of been insatiable curiosity. They’re interesting people because they are interested, right. They can connect dots because they’ve have all these different experiences or conversations or interesting things to draw from.

And at the end of the day, we’re talking to real people, right. We’re talking to real people out in the real world. So if you’re not getting out there and learning about people or learning about culture, spending all your time in an office, um, you’re not going to have as much inspiration, right? So I’m not saying skip out on your work and leave your office. But it’s good to get out there.

It’s good to talk to real people, travel concerts, you know, art, whatever gets you, excited, whatever gets you interested, and it gives you a new perspective. I think that’s really helpful. Our work doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists out in the chaos of the real world. So yeah, get out there and meet some people, stretch your mind.

I think all of that will, will benefit you as a strategist. I love that. I also was so onboard with the shitty first draft. That’s always like you gotta come and collaboration is like, We often, you know, I think there’s the perception of the loan strategists, you know, sitting in the corner, muddling over the thoughts and it’s just not the way it just doesn’t work that way so much better as a collaborative process.

So I love that. Lizzie, I’d love to hear your history in strategy. How did you get to where you are today? Yeah, definitely. So I studied communications and undergrad, but I was more focused on journalism. And I was kind of craving something that was a little bit more creative, a little bit more collaborative.

I really loved writing. And I love talking to people diving into topics. But I wasn’t quite sure that journalism was, was where I wanted to ultimately end up. And I ended up taking a capstone class in integrated marketing and just loved it. Um, but felt like I needed a little bit more background before jumping into a position.

So. I ended up going to, um, Northwestern has a program through McGill in Chicago for integrated marketing communications. So I went and got my graduate degree there and that’s kind of where I found out about strategy and about brand planning. And I really hadn’t heard of it. And I took a consumer insights course there and sort of fell in love with, with that track.

Um, and one of my professors said, you know, you should really think about, uh, getting into strategy or getting into brand planning. So from there, it was really, you know, seeking out projects where I could learn some more seeking out all sorts of strategists and brand planners and creative strategists that I could find and picking their brains.

It was a lot of coffee meetings and LinkedIn messages and calls with people in the industry to kind of get a sense of, of how it worked. Um, and I had an opportunity to do a project with the forays Chicago, right. Worked out of a bunch of different agencies, um, working on a strategic project for them, that was all about bringing young talent to Chicago and, um, in the ad agencies in particular.

And so during that time, I got to intranet, uh, Cramer Krasselt CK, which is where I am now. Um, and I was lucky enough when I finished grad school to reconnect with them and got hired on as a junior planner. And I’ve, I’ve just worked my way up there for about. Six years now came in as a, as a little baby out of grad school.

And, um, was lucky enough to be in an environment where we had, uh, I had a really great boss and a relatively small team. So a lot of access to projects and leadership and. Was sort of able to prove myself and work my way up there. So, um, uh, probably a rarity in the agency world that I’ve been at the same place for that long, but I think it’s a Testament to our agency and culture.

Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s kind of how I ended up there. It was a little bit of a windy road, um, but really enjoying it. You S you started right with so used to hearing those stories of like, Oh, I’ve been to like four different agencies. So it’s so nice to hear, you know, that long period at one place, which you can really develop that and kind of grow, which is great.

Uh, you’ve been applying dirty Academy member for a while now, and I’d love to hear what you found most helpful in the Academy. And, uh, yeah. What you’ve learnt. Yeah, I think it’s been really helpful for me in that. Um, you can get a lot of input and collaboration with people. I work on a relatively small, um, brand planning team.

So I have a few people I can bounce ideas off of, but it’s nice to have sort of this broader community that’s built into the Academy. Um, and through the Facebook groups as well, where people will just throw out things that they’re working on and ask for advice. Um, and it’s nice to just to have access to different.

Frameworks or ways of approaching projects. Like I was working on a brand voice project recently for a client and trying to kind of figure out where to start. And there was all sorts of different things that I could pull from on the planet, dirty site that were super helpful and kind of shaped how I approached the project for us.

Um, so for me, it’s all about the collaboration and then there’s some really good sort of inspirational stuff in there that I may not have thought of if I was. Working on my own in a vacuum or only with the team at my own agency. So I’ve really appreciated that. Yeah. I feel like the it strategy. There’s no one way to do it.

And that’s kind of what I’ve tried to preach and just having a toolbox. Is, um, I guess what it is, and it kind of works for me because I’m always like seeing new things. I’m like, Oh my God, that’s amazing. I want to bring that in each that, so I’m glad you found it useful. And I agree the community has been amazing, um, with everyone contributing and just seeing how other people approach strategy projects and how they put a deck together.

It’s been fascinating for me to, and really a learning experience as well. Uh, so thank you so much, Lizzie for taking the time and it was great speaking to you. Thank you.


Sign up to my fortnightly Strategy Finishing School Newsletter. I share tools, resources and brain bombs for your strategy comms for planners.