Tactics, Talent, and Tone: Bridge Conference 2017

August 23, 2017
— Ideas Blog —

We’re just now recovering from the fantastic 12th Annual Bridge Conference and trying to sort out all that we learned from a range of plenary speakers, workshops, exhibitors, clients, and colleagues. Looking over our notes, three themes really jump out at us:

First, the tension between strategy and tactics. Like everyone else, we were blown away by Alan Clayton’s keynote. Although we’ve seen his presentations at European conferences, and we’ve brought him to the U.S. to work with clients of ours, we ALWAYS learn something powerful and new from him. Alan fired up the crowd, inspiring us to think big about strategy. Yet in many of the workshops, we eased back into our comfort zone of talking about tactics. And while that’s natural, it forced us to reflect. How much of our day-to-day life is spent thinking about strategy and how much is spent thinking about tactics? How valued within our organizations are the visionaries — often the quirky folk — versus the kings and queens of process who can get work done? How can we continuously inject big thinking into our organizations and balance that with proven tactics?

Second, the importance of talent. At a conference with over 2,000 eager attendees, it’s tempting to think that our profession has an ample supply of talent. Yet we continue to hear story after story about open positions at both agencies and client organizations, and are forced to confront a labor market with more opportunity than there is talent. What’s our strategy for developing young people into skilled professionals? Where is the talent pipeline, and how well does it meet the needs of our profession?

And third, the tone of communications. Jeffrey Hayzlett gave a rollicking and provocative presentation with a very different tone than you might have heard at a Bridge plenary ten years ago. We see it also in politics and political fundraising — a sharpening of tone and language with voices like Elizabeth Warren’s increasingly resonating with our audiences. What does this mean for other types of fundraising communication? Are we in sync with our audiences?

And finally, do you have to work for Senator Pat Toomey to win a MAXI? He seems to have an inside track …

See you next year at Bridge!

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