What does a Group Strategy Director at Core do?
In a nutshell, we help marketers turn business plans into actionable marketing plans, so that everything is focused on achieving the business ambition.
Strategy has three simple parts: a diagnosis of the problem, a guiding principle to overcome it, and a coherent set of actions to drive it forward.
To develop these elements, we work closely with several different practices within Core: research, data, creative, sponsorship and media, both individually and collectively. Core’s vision is to expand the possibilities of what brands can achieve through collaboration, and we’re very fortunate to have such a breadth of expertise to call on.
The type of strategy we develop varies. It covers everything from developing brand and positioning strategy right through to connections and investment.
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
It was a gradual evolution. Joining Core was the key move for me. I had worked in media trading and planning before, but moving here initially gave me the opportunity to lead the planning for one of the media agencies initially. That was a great learning experience, as I was working with international colleagues and a range of different marketers.
After moving out of media into Core, it’s been a case of right place, right time. As Core’s offering has developed through Research and Data in particular, it’s given us access to a wealth of information which helps enormously. I’m also very lucky that I work with a diverse group of strategists with different backgrounds, so I get to learn (steal!) from them as well.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Time is probably the biggest one. Getting the strategy right is vital for other parts of the team to move forward coherently. But to do it justice we have to look at the brief from a number of different angles and explore different directions. Again, we’re very fortunate, as we can lean heavily on our colleagues in other practices to help us gather information and develop insight at a fast pace. On the other hand, the constraint of a deadline can be quite helpful too.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I think it varies for different types of strategists, but a few are common. You have to be curious – about people, business, and marketing. You have to be thorough in digging through as much information as possible with an open mind. Accountability is vital; actions have to be linked to the ultimate objective. Lastly, brevity. Good strategy should resolve complex problems simply.
I think an analytical mindset helps – but I regularly get teased for liking spreadsheets!
Describe a typical working day.
It’s probably easier to describe a week. We start with a capacity planning meeting within the team, before meeting Data and Research to see where we can support each other on shared projects.
Then it’s into the meat of the work. We tend to have three types of work: stand-alone projects; shared projects with Research and Data, where we build their findings into actionable marketing strategy; or working as part of the wider Core team including Creative, Sponsorship and/or Media.
We also keep two mornings free each week for internal sprint sessions. These are workshops we’ve designed to help any team or group across the agency develop strategic direction. Core is built on collaboration, so we bring a diverse mix into these sessions, armed with as much knowledge as possible, and work as a group to shape it into a strategic direction.
What do you love most about your role?
Unquestionably it’s when you see the direction you helped to set succeed. Watching it get adopted and built upon by colleagues and clients, and develop into something even more powerful than you had envisaged, is very rewarding. But I also love the process. Especially when you get up to your armpits in the issue and worry that you’re in too deep. It can be a bit terrifying, but its usually a good sign that you understand the problem. That’s generally when you go and brainstorm the issue with someone else, which is always rewarding.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
I’m a nerd when it comes to the science of advertising, and it feels like we’re coming into a bit of a golden age. I think there’s still a road ahead of us to keep making the case, but we’ve taken good first steps. That’s a journey I really want to be on, so I hope my career path can involve working more and more with clients to build that business case for marketing.
It’s also a really exciting time within Core. Working more closely together with a talented team that possess a mix of skills is leading to some fascinating new directions, and I’m excited to see what we can do together.
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
Three places - colleagues, books, and online industry resources. There’s a lot of expertise in our team, so talking through challenges is usually a great start and will open up a lot of avenues. I find there are a range of good online resources I go back to regularly, both local and international. We also have a library in Core, which we regularly steal from! And we are threating to start a book club for strategy titles, to keep information fresh and to share outtakes.
Core employs a team of 310 people and consists of nine practices - Creative, Data, Investment, Learning, Media (comprising of Mediaworks, Spark Foundry, Starcom and Zenith), Recruitment, Research, Sponsorship and Strategy.
Core has been voted Agency Network of the Year for the last six years at the Media Awards and the company was also recently voted one of the top workplaces in Ireland by the Great Place to Work Institute for the ninth year running.
Core Sponsorship was voted Best Sponsorship Agency at the 2017 Irish Sponsorship Awards.
For further details, please check out https://onecore.ie