Join me as I have a conversation with Sean Choi, Senior Strategist at The Martin Agency in New York. As he shares his 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, and his strategy journey.
Hi, I’m here with Sean Choi today. Who’s a senior strategist at the mass and agency. So Sean, my first question for you is what are your three pieces of advice for strategists first off, stoked to be here and to even answer that question, and first I’d say establishing your voice would be my first bit of advice.
And I feel that. It’s going to apply it to all level of strategists, aspiring entry-level mid-level. And the reason it covers all of these is because establishing your voice really entails both personally, discovering your voice and then showing the value of your voice amongst others. That’s voice can take the form of your strategy presented with the creatives or your agency during a pitch or your personal brand for employers.
And the way I see it, strategists are notorious for being people with opinions and often quite strong opinions. That’s often why we’re brought in approached or even valued. And so I believe opinion stem from experience and ultimately your. Voice comes from passion. So earn your opinion. Do your research, seek understanding, put in the time, care and attention that’s needed and you don’t need to become a subject matter expert, but more of a subject matter appreciator.
It’s not practical that we know everything about everything. Learn. Just enough to appreciate it. Shout out Dunning Kruger. Then once you form your own opinion, just believe in it, put it out there, show your thinking and be proud of it. And second, I’d say daring to innovate. I’m definitely on the team where it strategists being creatives, and their own.
Right. And it said that in creative work, consistency kills. And when you’re in the earlier part of your career, yes, practice develop muscle memory, get your reps, gaining all the fundamental skill sets. And that foundation of how to think is to me, at least what makes the Planning Dirty Academy, just such a valuable resource.
And what I love most about it is that it’s not. Definitive templates and frameworks exist to save us time so that you, you can put that save time towards taking it further. So once you have fluency in those key skills, build off of them and go off script and mix it up, go against the grain, make it your own, because going with what’s tried and true, I feel completely neglects the fact that.
Culture and society are constantly evolving and ever ever-changing and playing it safe, just produces boring work. And that won’t really get far in this day and age. So challenge everything, including yourself is what I’d say. And third, and lastly, invest in development. And I, by that, I mean, both yours and others as well for your personal development.
I feel that we often define our growth by titles and vertical jumps, which. Just creates invisible barriers that we corner ourselves into. You can still be a senior strategist or even do director things without actually being one. So live the role you want to attain is something that I’ve incorporated into how I approach my career, my development, and remember that you don’t need a title to be a leader, but once you do feel that you are ready for management, the.
Just the need to help others develop, I think becomes just way more important and, um, crucial to your function and determining the impact and contribution you want to make. Um, good questions to ask yourself are like, how do I want to be seen by those that report to me? Or are probably how do I wanna be seen by those that I report to and.
Not only does this go for your direct team, but it can extend to interdepartmental to clients and to your professional network. I’m really in favor of feeding and valuing these relationships. And it just results in a better environment that I think produces more meaningful work and just gets me more excited about my day-to-day.
Awesome. I love subject Metta. Appreciate it. I’ve never heard that term, but it’s a great one. It definitely is. You know, I think we often feel that a nervousness that we’re going to get like Kodak because we’re not the expert and we’re not meant to be the expert in every category. I think has strategists women to be able to going to a new category that we know nothing about and just.
I appreciate and suck all the information up and really understand it. So I love, I love that show. I’d love to hear about your journey into strategy and what was that like? I had such a wacky journey, I’ll share the, the SparkNotes version, but oddly enough, I actually studied strategic communications for my undergrad, but didn’t end up getting into strategy for years.
I first worked for apple doing talent and culture work for quite some time. And then I went into digital marketing and e-commerce at a B2B company for a while, but eventually I just hit a point in my life that I realized I wasn’t loving what I was doing and had this feeling in my gut, that there was more for me out there.
And I had this monumental conversation with a friends now turned mentor, Jeremy Schuman over at Instagram. Who shared what strategy really is and what the career fields, actually involves. And it was at that moment, I had that calling moment. I knew what I was supposed to be doing, and I just felt this like indescribable, reinvigorating excitement that led me to spontaneously up and move to New York with no leads, no contacts, to start a job hunt that ended up being probably one of the most introspective.
Doubt written self-questioning experiences in my life, but you know, I, I buckled down, I did my research and decided to use strategy to get a strategy role. So lo and behold, after six weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, and. Some, guerrilla tactics. I ended up landing a strategist role at an agency that was sold in up on me.
It’s take a chance on someone who was most definitely, not qualified and didn’t hit the required three to five years of enroll experience for the job, but landed it. Then I grew and developed and quickly just made an impact and eventually became client-facing helped win new biz and wrote pieces for.
Publications. And eventually it was time for my next step, which was new agency and a new title and a new role. And now I get to call the Martin agency in my home and looking forward to all the ways I’ll be able to grow here as well with his family. That’s great. And it’s such an iconic, iconic agency in America.
The mountain agency they’ve done so much. Great work. One question I have was what was the guerrilla tactics? Oh, man, there was a, there’s a lot that went into it. But once again, the short version is that first I sorted out what agencies I wanted to work for, did something like 10 stocking to find a strategy, execs and directors, and those people that had hiring power, then.
I literally dressed up as if I were a bike messenger and went into the offices of these agencies and past security and I hand delivered packages that had a bottle of champagne with a message and that particular champagne I grew way I delivered. It’s from a brand that actually. Fooled wine critics in France into thinking it was a local award-winning bottle when it was actually from the us in New Mexico of all places.
So I tied this into a narrative in that note about not being defined by my lack of enroll and agency experience, but the way that I think. And then the note had a QR code that directed traffic to a landing page and had a tracking pixel on my site. And it led to a few other offers and essentially really the official start of my strategy for, I love it.
It’s great. It’s so good. And I love like, it’s not just. You know, you haven’t just gone and thought about the bottle of like getting past security and then keeping it, but the story behind it is great too. I love that story. Thank you so much, Sean. That’s a really appreciate the advice and, and your background.
It’s been great. A hundred percent. Make sure.
Sign up to my fortnightly Strategy Finishing School Newsletter. I share tools, resources and brain bombs for your strategy comms for planners.