After months of planning, it was finally here: Innovation Day. Arriving in the office around 8.30, first things first – I got my calls diverted to my mobile so that any clients needing help could still reach us, despite Salterbaxter being officially on ‘other business’ for one day only, we would NOT be letting anyone down, if they needed us!
This was our five year birthday, and this was set to be the biggest Innovation Day yet. Our sister company MSLGROUP UK did it simultaneously last year at Whitfield Street while we got down to it at Whiteleys, despite the tube strikes. This was a new year, in a new office with new stable mates – so the seven teams this year would be comprised of Salterbaxter, MSLGROUP, social enterprise leaders/MDs (clients), UnLtd (a registered charity set up to support the social enterprises) and representatives from Publicis stablemates CNC, Chemistry, Poke and August.
Just before 9am, our first guests started to arrive and all of a sudden, the first floor was teeming with new faces and the sound of introductions being made. There was an air of expectation and excitement. Some of us had met only virtually, and I guided folks to the name badges to avoid any potentially awkward moments but being a communications business, our staff tend to be generally of the gregarious type. Penny Baxter kicked off proceedings around 10am by sounding a comedy horn and we did some quick introductions – seven lots of clients to say hello to – and we were promptly despatched in groups to various spaces in the Baker Street building.
Down to work
I had been assigned to the Grow To School (GTS) team. Salterbaxter had managed the long and short lists and most of us had been given the opportunity to vote for the final client list. For the participants from sister companies taking part for the first time, they were assigned to teams where their skills would complement the group and client. My team had been very efficiently led by MSLGROUP’s Marco Almarez Myford, SB Creative Director Nina Pickup and Innovation Day veteran and overarching Director (when not being a consultant) Lynn Dickinson. To ensure we would have actionable outcomes, they had already scoped out our clients’ requirements and structured the day so that we would be split into teams in various workshops.
GTS believe that children do not all thrive learning within the built environment, so their mission is to extend learning capabilities outside. They sold their services to schools to supplement conventional teaching methods – and while they had already enjoyed success across West Yorkshire they need to grow their social business. Which is where we would help. GTS knew what they were good at, but they had identified in their strategic plan that they had poor market reach, poor routes to market, lack of marketing and networking strategies. After team intros, we had a quick Q&A session with the founding partner Ama Chaney and then we were promptly sent off to do some market segmentation exercises. Or in comms lingo, creating target audience personas.
Jonathan, Sarah and I sat down with Kathy from GTS and teased out what kinds of business partners GTS worked with and from there, we had 30 mins to work out what motivated these people to buy, how we might reach them, what did we need to make them feel, what might criticisms from them look like (and then how we could convert that into a positive), what our ‘call to action’ might be and how to reach them. Other sub teams tackled schools, parents and the dreaded budget holders. We then presented back to the group and Ama and Kathy fed back their comments. That was session one.
Session two built onto the first bit of work, which was to distill this thinking into target audience elevator pitches. Having warmed up a bit, the same sub teams were allotted 20 mins to work up the pitch and only 10 mins to present back. Our team leaders had given us guidance as to what to include in an elevator pitch, which was great for the two of us whose day jobs were ‘back of house’. Of course, some folks’ interpretation of 30 seconds was quite liberal, but even accepting that the teams had opportunities to research beforehand, some creative ideas began to spill out quickly. Over 20 mins, one team started working on communications strategy and another on key words. The USP for GTS evolved from this work, as did a new, punchy strapline, designed to command attention.
There was a small lunchtime crisis with ‘sandwich gate’ and the mysterious case of the raw side of salmon (OK not so mysterious – I ordered the wrong thing!) but this was resolved fairly quickly. Baker Street is a good place to be when hungry and we broke off to grab food and cake. All the teams reconvened for lunch, which spilled out onto the 6th floor roof terrace, and it was great to see so much collaboration. And goodness – some of it was social!
Somewhat fortified with sandwiches, the teams filed back to their ‘home rooms’ and we had a recap of the morning’s work. With Ama and Kathy’s comments, we shuffled around and split into new sub teams to tackle the branding and content development – press release, FAQs and Toolkit. For my afternoon sessions, I worked with Huw who I had never worked with on client projects and Belinda who I know from the HR network but I hadn’t worked with her very much, either. However, business was brisk and we all threw ideas into the ring and worked together to brainstorm website FAQs. The current website did not have one, and it was felt that there was a slight lack of clarity about the services GTS offer.
The structure of the day kept us highly productive. Marco kept us all (in the nicest possible way) on tight leashes, pushing us on, when we were doing more thinking than capturing ideas. In any team, there is always a talker but our team leaders kept us on schedule and focused on the jobs in hand, for each session. There was no excuse not to stay on point!
Presenting our work
At quarter to five, having got together one last time and divvying up speaking parts for the final presentation, the GTS team trooped upstairs to join the entire ID2016 gathering. Seven presentations, 3 minutes each, no extra time allowed! It was a tall order but it needed to be done, there were too many people in the room to run over. There was no particular order that the presentations needed to be delivered, but three minutes is a very short time, as we soon found out! However, it meant that team members needed to speak but also jump in quickly, to support if anyone struggled. The first two team presentations couldn’t quite get all their presentations in but we had times that knocked up visuals, some printed them, others presented on screen. We had one presentation where everyone said something and they STILL delivered within the three minute rule, to impressive applause. In fact, every team had great responses because they all generated so much content.
My overwhelming feeling at the end of the day, aside from sheer exhilaration, was pride. Pride in being privileged enough to work alongside some of the incredible forces of nature that are the founders of these social enterprises whose motives are for social good, not profit. Pride in the people I work with on a daily basis for being so smart, clever and funny! Pride in working for a business that has committed to doing this annually, for agreeing to invest its people, money and effort because we are NOT islands. I sincerely hope that Innovation Day is rolled out even further next year – Happy 5th Birthday to you!