SCOTT PERRY; BARD OF BRAY firstname.lastname@example.org; 0044 7941 096207
Change the world; we've done it, it's definitely possible.
A mid-size accountancy firm begins to win pitches against the 'Big Four' for the first time in its history; a struggling architecture practice wins a string of awards and becomes the category leader; a charity triples its income in the space of 24 months.
Strategy is writing; writing is strategy
What you'll get here: brand strategy that uses the power of words to identify and create real change in the real world, within organisations and externally. Award-winning writing that helps deliver it.
Know what to say; say it better.
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STRATEGY IS WRITING - KNOW WHAT TO SAY
Brand strategy is not a piece of research that gives way to some creativity later. It is a creative act in itself, the creation of the argument that generates change.
Branding must identify exactly what that change should be, in who it takes place, and how. Then it must make it happen: win people over, rouse feelings, alter behaviour. At every stage, the more accurate the articulation, the greater its influence. Brand strategy is an art that relies entirely on the precision of words for its power, for these words go on to influence everything that comes after, they are your butterfly effect. Branding is brutally, unequivocally, verbal.
And yet strategy is nearly always produced by people who cannot write.
Just when it's most crucial that you know exactly what to say, they produce pie charts and stacked pyramid diagrams. Perhaps you've had concentric circles or Venn diagrams shoved under your nose, that's another good sign that the person in front of you has no clue as to what they are about. It's work that is bereft of emotional intelligence: these people don't have enough genuine content to tell it like it is. In two decades as a writer, I rarely ever got from a brand strategist what I needed to do my job.
And I got fed up of going back to do their work.
Strategy is writing and writing is strategy. Think about this the next time you sign off on that five-figure budget.
Fire the consultant: five ways to tell that your strategist is failing you.
1. No plan, no direction
Amazingly, brand strategists regularly fail to even ask the most fundamentally important question: what do you want to change? What do you actually want to happen? How you can not recognise or meaningfully tackle your real task is beyond me, but it happens very often indeed.
2. All things to all people
Because strategists rarely have to do the hard work of actually convincing anyone in real life, they make great claims and promises that cover absolutely everything and everyone. This goes down great in a boardroom. It goes nowhere in the real world.
3. The bore at the party
Even so, strategists frequently don’t even take the trouble of addressing any of their range of target audiences. Why would you, when you can advise your client to do something that makes them feel important and requires rather less effort: talk about themselves. 'Me, me, me' is not a connection and solves nothing.
4. Lazy: mired in cliché
And yes, while helping you, the client, to talk about yourself with no real regard for who is listening, why not encourage you to do so in such a clichéd way that you communicate subconsciously that you’re too lazy and disinterested to find a better way of saying things? Wouldn't that be the best practice solution going forward? Wouldn't it just.
5. Divorced from the real world
If you put a “Mission statement” in front of an employee, whose language are you talking? How do you think it makes that person feel? Valued? Motivated? Like they truly belong? Jargon does not help you. It is your enemy, and it makes you less clever, not more, if all you do by using it is isolate and exclude the people who matter to you.
Five things we do differently; five benefits
1. Clarity on what to change
Many companies, when subject to our questioning process, are surprised to discover that their strategy isn’t as focused as they thought. We work in collaboration with you to get at what you actually want to happen. It's hard work. But it's amazing how often the 'storytelling' reveals the way you should go. This way we can actually do something concrete to help you.
2. Clarity on how change happens
Change only happens through people. So who exactly will bring it about for you? What do they need to feel, know, do... that they didn’t before? We’ll bring far greater focus to your branding so it actually hits home.
3. Clarity on emotional engagement
We’re going to address people’s needs and talk about what matters to them. We’re going to show we understand them. Show how what you stand for relates to them. And we’re going to move them emotionally. Decisions are driven by feeling, then post-rationalised.
4. Clarity on what makes you different
If everyone, everywhere is ‘passionate’... the word comes to mean nothing, it becomes a dead word. We want you to be convincingly different. We want people to feel good about themselves when they come into contact with you. Binning clichés takes effort and thought, but it’s worth it. So, if you’re hoping to use the word ‘solution’ in your communications, you’ve come to the wrong place.
5. Clarity in how you talk
Be natural: we’ll make you ditch the jargon. Half of brand experts can’t coherently explain the difference between a mission and a vision, two of their favourite buzzwords. We’ll encourage you to talk like human beings who actually enjoy being alive. Talk clearly; no smoke, no mirrors. And we’ll put ourselves in your audience’s shoes. That “mission statement” is really a “plan for the future” in a fancy coat, no?
A third of a second
Do all the groundwork thoroughly, and you get traction with everything that comes after. I know that I am not alone in being frustrated that this work is rarely done well. Brands often become great despite the strategists, not because of them, thanks largely to the innate understanding that graphic designers and advertisers have of their audiences. They use their natural instincts to work round the briefs they’re given. How absurd.
Everything that is important to us here happens in about a third of a second. A small rush of adrenaline, a burst of activity through a certain set of neurons... and bam, a decision gets made. Understand what goes on in that third of a second, understand how to create it: that is branding.
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WRITING IS STRATEGY - SAY IT BETTER
A word after a word after a word is power. But there is no short cut. It takes deep thought, understanding and imagination to give rise to sentences that actually mean something to people. It takes time and effort as well as skill.
Yet we live in an age where so many organisations and individuals seem to think that the answer to being heard is to make more noise, more quickly, in more media. They like to claim that people don't have time for them.
Often it's the other way around. Often it's actually they who haven't taken the time to think enough about the other people. This applies to branding and to writing. The world moves on, but the art of motivation and establishing interest is timeless. You can always make people have time for you.
Actually, that's the whole point.
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SCOTT PERRY, BARD OF BRAY
I have worked across all sectors, with architects, charities, fast-moving consumer goods companies, banks and law firms, including two of the 'Magic Circle'. I've helped be the voice of global brands such as Mercedes, Unilever, Bombay Sapphire and the Salvation Army. For Land Securities I wrote brochures launching several of London's most famous new buildings, including the 'Walkie Talkie' and One New Change.
I have over 40 professional awards. I know they're important, these awards, because I'm citing them here, but I stopped entering competitions around 2010 when I realised I was happier spending the enormous entry fees on food. I like creating positive change and seeing the effect on clients, that's where the pleasure lies.
Part of this positive change includes building teams of the highest-calibre graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and IT experts to deliver the entire project... and manage it into the future. Having a strategist who understands the genesis of the brand creatively, and that can continue guiding the process and participants from start to finish by delivering the written communications is a rare advantage.
I started as a playwright – amazingly 'Bookends' still gets put on over twenty years later: you can buy it from the Samuel French bookshop or Amazon. A sensitive ear for character, dialogue and narrative translates perfectly to the world of business. When I have some spare time, I'm working on a number of books for children, and some food books, and a few other publishing projects. And looking after the plants and skiing and going to see Atletico Madrid and watching films and reading and going to the market and there's never enough spare time, is there? There's just not enough time. So I try to make the time we spend collaborating together special, every second, because this time we have is incalculably valuable, and there to be enjoyed.
Ah, you made it to here. Let's change something.