Meat, bones, brain.

How to pitch your creative work.

From social help to pitches

The Salvation Army has a great claim that explains how they work with people in the need:

“Soup, Soap, Salvation”.

The NGO uses this claim to explain that before being able to bring faith to someone you have to take care of her most urgent needs. In the case of social services, this is as clear as in the salvationist claim. People are hungry, so we need first to feed them before anything else. I think that this slogan can inspire a new way to pitch ideas, concepts and strategies. Let's see how we can translate this claim in the business world. 

In the creative world, designers and strategists build powerful strategies for ideas, projects, campaigns. These strategies are the heart or brain of each project. A good strategy defines hoe different artifacts work together to reach s specific goal. A clear strategy is like a plan that defines all the other elements of the project. In this sense, it's evidence that strategies are way more important than artifacts.  But, there is a “but”. People who consult creatives and designers are hungry to see the artifacts. They want to see the results of what they asked. As for the starving homeless, you can't talk about a strategy if your client is hungry for artifacts. That means that we should show artifacts before strategies. And we should do this for every client who is hungry for artifacts. And my little experience most of the clients are hungry for artifacts. The only exception to this rule is for some of the C-Level people I've met. These visionary people care about goals, vision and plan. And they don't care about each little screw needed to keep the whole together. 

In the design and creative world, we can translate the salvationist claim “Soup, Soap, Salvation” into “Artifacts, Concepts, Strategy”.

Here the details of what I mean by these three words: 

  1. Meat or Artifacts.  An artifact is any visual or tangible element that is part of the project. It can be a mockup, a 3D model, a poster, etc.
  2. Bones or Concepts.  A concept is the combination of elements showing why the artifact has this form. A concept is a mix of user research, historical references, and storytelling. 
  3. Brain or Dark matter. The dark matter is what makes several artifact work together. It's what gives sense to the whole. The dark matter is the strategy that gives a plan to the artifacts so that they reach a common goal. 

N.B. I reuse here the notion of the dark matter presented by Dan Hill in “Dark Matter and Trojan Horses A Strategic Design Vocabulary”.  

Starving versus hungry.

Why stories matter. 

When you work with a healthy manager the Salvationist claim is a bit more flexible. We are here in something less urgent than when you take care of homeless people. Your client is usually not starving, in a metaphorical way, as a homeless is. The client is usually just hungry and excited to see, touch and feel how is project will be. In such a case, we can take a bit more time to introduce the artifact in a smart way. This introduction is what I call the story. The story is an introduction which has some emotional triggers. A good story helps to catch the attention of the client through with emotion. On the other side, the you build the story with logic. You introduce the idea that something beautiful or amazing has structure and meaning. Because the hungry manager is not starving, we can bring the project through a story. We then can catch attention and prepare the two last phase of our presentation. 

Be flexible

Different audience. Different durations.  

Duration of each phase according to audience

Duration of each phase according to audience

As I mentioned before, different audiences put have different focus. Hungry managers are excited about the artefacts when C-Level executives care for the strategy. That's when timing and duration play an important role. For hungry managers it's clear that you have to spend more time on the artefact phase, the two other phase are used to consolidate the choice of the artefact. For C-Level executives the strategy is the heart of the problem, so you should spend more time on it. When you don't know your audience that much, just spend the same amount of time on each phase. So each different people focus are taken into account. 

What's important here is to always present each phase. But why? Simply because people are more complex than we usually image. Someone that we expect to be a "hungry manager" can reveal himself as being a damn good visionnaire. The opposite is of course true for C-Level executives. The other reason for presenting always all the phase is that presentation meeting can be little surprises. I often heard colleagues complaining that they prepared a presentation for a meeting for a specific person, and then this person shows up with more people who have completely different focuses. And then, the presentation doesn't work anymore. 

About this article.

Thanks Anina

This article is based on discussion that took place with Anina Christen during our bi-monthly meetings. Thanks to her for the inspiration and her always smart comments.