Beyoncé and strategy have more in common than you think. At least, that’s what strategists Kerry O’Connor and Kevin Murray told the UNC Ad Club on a recent visit.
“Queen B has one job and that’s to be a badass,” said Kevin. “She doesn’t need to check the mic or the lights. She’s got a team of people who do that for her. Strategists are like roadies. It’s our job to clear obstacles in the way of creatives so they can go out there and be badass.”
Beyoncé analogies aside, Kerry shared what strategists are truly on the hook for: to inform, inspire, and help sell great creative. “A creative brief is the culmination of tons of research and work boiled down into a single page. What you leave out of the brief is just as important as what you put into it,” she explained. “And if you want inspiring creative, you have to deliver an inspiring brief. And selling great creative? We’re not just giving our clients an idea, we’re also giving them strategic ways to sell the idea to their boss or their internal team.”
When asked about a typical day, Kerry and Kevin agreed there isn’t one. They also agreed on what makes a great strategist: curiosity. “You must have a deep sense of curiosity whether you’re diving into a brand’s history, searching for that one insight, or working nonstop to understand your client’s business,” said Kerry. “You have be a student of culture, too. Movies, books, theater, music, technology...take in as much as you can. You never know how your passion will show up in your work.”
Kevin closed with what makes a great planner at McKinney. “Empathy. At McKinney, we make ads that speak to real people. So we do our best to truly understand real people — not just some fake persona. And the best way to foster empathy is to get out. I mean really get out. Get out of your office. Get out of your bubble. Get out and talk to all kinds of people. Put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. It’s good for your job. And in a world that is as divisive as ever before, getting out and seeking to truly understand all sorts of people is good for your soul.”