OK, so after the 'how not to train junior planners' here's some thoughts on how to go about it.
Although, I guess much of it has been covered by pointers in the last post.
Still, worth a positive outlook and some general pointers.
Much of it is based on some simple principles:
First, great planners are interested in much more than planning or advertising or even brands.We're interrupting what people care about, or these days, finding a way to be part of it, so the more we care about THAT the better.
Second, no two planners are the same, nor should they be.
Third, happy people produce better results and stay far longer.
Fourth, planners without evidence based work are just suits with more opinions.
Fifth, creative planners are losing their role as 'lead planner' with many clients.
Finally, it's hard enough being a senior planner type when you have to earn your right in the room, for a junior, it's Everest.
1. Great Planners are interested in much more than planning
This means you need to give them both the space and the encouragement. Agencies can work long hours, but when you are a junior, it's easy to think you need to stay late every single night, or get in at the crack of dawn. Some places make it known that this is encouraged, but all you get are tired and stupid people who are nowhere near their best.
What is worse, if they spend all their waking hours talking about advertising, they'll only plan for 'advertising' rather than planning for making real people care. Rather than pulling stimulus from the world at large and being able to inspire the team around what really interests people, to make advertising register, they'll just start doing 'advertising'.
Even more dire, they'll start thinking it's a desk job and not go out and meet the people they're supposed to making strategy for - real human beings. As has been said a billion times, research is a waste of time unless you observe people in their real environment. If you want to understand a species, go to the jungle. not the zoo.
So apart from sending folks out of the agency and protecting them from a 'presenteeism' environment, here are two stimulating things you can do:
First, give every junior planner (in fact every planner) a 100 day task every single year, where they have to go and find out something new and interesting about an important target audience for your clients. To focus the minds, they have to present to a senior team and even the client if you have that relationship. The evidence can only be what you have discovered from 'non-advertising' tools, no TGI, no WARC, no NVision. And they need to have some video of actually talking to people.
Second, get an 'interesting fund' set up, where everyone in your department gets £200 to invest in learning something new and interesting, or enriching a private passion. It could be learning to play the guitar, doing a video production course. They just have to write why they are choosing what they are choosing - and share what they're learned and what it's taught then about the job at the end of the year.
2. No two planners are the same.
In the previous post, we discussed the wrongness of the one size fits all planning approach. The problem with a proprietary process is that it makes you approach every brief the same way, and usually come out with the same solution. It's why every campaign out of Chiat Day looks like an Apple campaign and always has a manifesto in it somewhere. Just as doing the same workshop over and over again yields the same kind of idea.
Boundaries and guidelines are good. Fixed rules are not.
But it's much more than that. There are core planning skills of course, but even these are debatable. This is a good starting point.
Nowadays, the skills of a planner are too broad to be contained in one human being. Generally, you need to know how most stuff works and be able to knit it together into something more cohesive, but 'most stuff' is getting a very large requirement. Getting to grips with data, the rapidly changing media environment, digital and social media, the need for content as much as ads.
You need a team that's good at different stuff and can do things different ways.
Someone ace at data, I mean the really hard stuff, not just TGI.
Someone who lives and breathes digital (but get's it's place, double so for social media).
A good comms planner is a must these days.
But then someone who has the rare instinct for retail too. If you think retail is easy, try writing a brief that stimulates people into the saying the word 'sale' a different way, or someone who can handle a sales force.
You might need someone who get's healthcare, B2B, maybe someone who get's international brand planning.
In short, you need to recruit for filling gaps, not for carbon copies.
Especially folks who are good at what you are not.
They need to be assigned accounts that suits their skills and interests - and some that do not.
So they get to do what they're good at, plus enrich their knowledge and skills base. Give them enough space to learn from mistakes and issues, with enough support and 'open door' sensibilities so they feel they can come for help (and not be made to feel stupid).
As mentioned before, making them do secondments in other departments really works here.
All of the above kind of goes towards happy people staying longer and producing results by the way, which was point 3.
4. Planners without evidence or just suits with more opinions.
There's a vogue for 'ideas' rather than insight. I don't mean some sort huge revelation, which are hard to come by, but evidence based thinking that unlocks other people's skills.
My view on this stuff is that our task is to get to a really great task, a jumping off point for everyone based on: brand/product/market/customer/audience/media/shopping or customer journey/culture. Our task is to knit these sources of input into once clear task for communications that everyone can get behind. If you miss one of these, you haven't done your job, and if any of it doesn't have some evidence, you haven't done your job.
The core observation might have some sort of focus or emphasis.
For example, this was all based on a shopper insight that women bought lots of shower gel for men:
This campaign was based on a cultural insight that the Scots are very optimistic supporters who deal with defeat and victory really well, supported by all sorts videos from sporting events and street interviews..
With a special bookend after the games, based on the pyschology insight that we remember the end of things best, and stories of how movie companies film and research the ending scenes to death.
Anyway. For junior planners, I think we need to get back to training them to be very good researchers. Planners used to be focus group moderators who then turned the findings into usable hooks for strategy and creative work.
We rarely have budget to moderate groups for development (and I can safely say most of us know it's a waste of time) but now we have all that data freely available from the internet, trends stuff coming our of our ears, all sorts of market data, Mintel reports and, if you are lucky enough, TGI and Touchpoints. A really great planners will look at all that stuff and connect it in a way someone else won't.
Or they'll just go out an meet their audience and talk to them enough to understand the business issue in the context of real life...which is always the real competition for the brand. Just get some proof video, quotes and try and quantify it in some way.
I think our job is to teach junior people these skills (and some bloody senior people) and as a leader of a department, hold everyone to account .
And train your team to connect things. There are not really new ideas, just new re-combinations of old ones. I think that means teaching them to mind-map, teaching the unfashionable are of distillation and....
Make sure you have some sort of scrapbook initiative. Some of that is taken care by the 100 day projects and interesting funds from above, but it's worth having a scrapbook initiative. A vault of interesting stuff for everyone to draw on. I suggest a team TUMBLR, perhaps with a different editor every month. But the trick is to get the team to all contribute - as long as your hiring people with different skills and interests (you should be).
For me, all of the above will really help that 'lead planner' issue. It's fair game for any agency now and I feel that the planner that:
Has the most interesting things to say, the one people want in the room, will be that planner by default.
That doesn't mean they talk the most - in fact, they should be taught to keep their mouths shut, listen to everyone else and speak last (see IRN BRU thankyou ad insight).
They should be taught to plan for meetings, to have something evidence based to say that will make everyone think, create a discussion point and shed light on the agenda .
Like Gordon Gecko says here:
They should be taught to always know more about client business, target customer and relevant culture than any other supplier and, in the case of customer and culture, anyone in the client business.
These are more important than 'ideas'.
And, dare I say, the person that brings real life, the lives of real customers and culture into the room.
Which brings me to a final point.
The more complex your language, the more people think you are an idiot. The best planners speak human. The task of a leader is not tie their team up in knots with needless jargon and buzz words.
It is to set an example by speaking plainly and bollocking anyone in your team if they don't do the same.
Hope this helps.
(very busy, this will be riddled with dreadful typos, sorry, no time to check overly!!)