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What Kind of Planner Are You?

Do you know what a Labradoodle is? How about a Puggle? Or a Saint Dane?

They’re all kinds of designer dogs – Hybrids that result from the intentional mixing of two breeds to meet the needs of the owner, e.g. hypoallergenic, non-shedding, good for apartments, etc.

I mention this because the same thing is happening in the world of planning. When I started in advertising 16 years ago, we had account planners. They were responsible for a big bucket of things, including research, consumer insights, customer profiles, competitive analysis, brand positioning, etc. Then digital happened (and later social) and with it came fresh ways to engage and inform audiences, instant feedback loops, dynamic and highly-personalized content, new performance metrics, etc.

As things started to get fancy, whole new disciplines emerged: Information architects, experience planners, content strategists, etc. Since we were talking about the interaction between customers and brands it made sense to involve account planning – and boom! – hybrid planners were born.

How do I know this? Because I’m working on four “planner” searches right now and none of them are the same pedigree. It’s making me nuts! There are Digital Strategists, Engagement Strategists, Communications Planners, Channel Strategists, etc.

To truly discern whether someone is right for the job, I need to understand the questions they’re brought in to solve, typical engagements and deliverables. Then I can work backwards to figure out their genetic make-up, e.g. A Digital Strategist for a web dev shop may benefit from a background in UX or site analytics. An Engagement Strategist could represent the intersection of consumer insights and media planning.

In short, it’s not as simple as one size fits all, Yorkipoo. And this is where I want your help. I feel like I could still learn more. I aspire to be able to sniff a planner and immediately know their DNA (OK, not actually sniff). I found this Slideshare presentation* and it gets me part of the way there, but I’d love to hear from you:

  1. What kind of planner are you?
  2. What questions do you solve and how do you solve them?
  3. Why are you uniquely qualified for this role?
  4. How does your agency organize the different planning disciplines?

Your input will help me create tighter planner profiles and refine the screening questions I ask. I’m happy to publish my findings in a future post so we can all become better at interviewing and hiring. To kick things off, you can message me at

*Sad Addendum: The author of this deck, Griffin Farley, Strategy Director at BBH New York passed away last week. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer only 7 months ago.

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