Like many families during the early days of lockdown, we got a dog — Stan. At the time, my youngest daughter was living at home and my wife, a teacher, was holding virtual classes in the kitchen. There were plenty of people to look after him.

Since September I’ve been left in charge of Stan. I’m now the only one working from home. My daughter’s returned to university and my wife’s back at school. I’ve been elevated to the role of primary dog walker so I take him out twice a day.

Since then, two things have happened. Firstly, my…

In our personal and professional life goal setting is easy. We find it easy to imagine the life we want to lead. A life where we’re happier, fitter, richer and more successful. Achieving goals is much harder. Unsurprisingly, New Year’s Resolutions usually end in failure. Goals help us grow, but we can get so much better at setting and achieving them.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1 Don’t Set Too Many

One reason we fail is that in our enthusiasm to improve we add more and more. As a result our limited energy and time gets stretched too widely and we…

Given all the restrictions we’re living with, one of the key challenges for facilitators is how to create the same buzz as face to face sessions. This is particularly important in innovation workshops, where spontaneity and energy are vital. Like everybody else, I’ve had to adapt. Having planned and run a few online innovation sessions, here’s what I believe are the key tools and platforms you need.

1 Zoom for Discussions

By now, thanks to lockdown, everyone knows Zoom. For me, it’s still the simplest and most user friendly meeting platform out there. Compared to others, the killer feature is…

Developing a deep understanding of consumer behaviour is one of the most important tasks a marketer can bring to an organisation. We’re always on the look out for that big, fresh insight that can unlock growth. Whole departments have been set up to generate insights. We go on training courses. We attend conferences. We learn the lingo.

But still, the biggest challenge we face is knowing when we’ve spotted a great insight. I’ve delivered many insight training programmes and brand positioning projects and there’s always this agonising debate. Is that really THE insight we want to focus on? Is it…

Over the past few months I’ve learnt a lot about feedback. I’ve been giving lots of feedback on presentations delivered to me as part of an ongoing training programme.

Plus, whilst training to become an accredited coach, I’ve received lots of feedback on my own coaching approach.

Here’s my key lessons.

How to Give Feedback

Giving feedback is a big responsibility. Whether on a specific piece of work or someone’s performance, you’re in a position of power. In contrast, the person receiving it is in a vulnerable state, so think carefully. Do it seriously. Don’t be cavalier or random.


Originality is Nothing But Judicious Imitation

This is my favourite creativity quote. It’s from Voltaire and it’s so true. There’s no such thing as a truly original idea. Originality comes via fresh re-combinations of existing phenomena. It requires voyeurism, theft and the bravery to act upon what you see.

Musicians know this. When Little Richard died recently, Paul McCartney tweeted this.

The Renaissance of La Cucina Povera

During the lockdown we’ve all had to reacquaint ourselves with home cooking. To cook 3 meals a day. Every day. It’s even more challenging with children at home all the time. Schools are shut. Holidays are upon us and older children have returned to the family home.

Our meals need to be interesting, varied and healthy. Yet, fresh ingredients are not easy to get hold of. Plus we want to limit our trips to the supermarkets. And frankly, many of us are anxious about money in these uncertain times.

To use the language of…

Fresh insight is the foundation of any successful organisation. However, if you’re a fledging or small business how do you get real consumer understanding when you don’t have deep pockets or dedicated experts? Well, all you need is curiosity, a nose for commercial opportunity and a good dose of empathy. Here’s how.

1 Seek out and apply consumer trends

Many organisations publish detailed, well researched and fascinating trend reports. They’re usually free and easy to access. My go-to source is the Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) Consumer Lifestyle Trends — click here to access them — which are updated on…

Whilst I was training to become an Executive Coach, one of my big ‘a-ha’ moments was to discover that asking ‘why’ when trying to get deeper into a discussion was completely the wrong thing to do. It was a real revelation to me. I always ask ‘why?’ whenever I’m trying to find out more. Whilst my intention is positive, I learnt that simply asking why can have a negative effect.

The person hearing it can think:

a) you’re passing judgement on what I said or done.

b) you’re criticising what I’ve said or done.

As a consequence, the person on…

In the marketing world, there are 2 types of workshop we’re asked to facilitate — the creative and the strategic. Creative workshops are all about idea generation — new products, services, names, communications. Strategic sessions are about planning and making decisions. Sometimes you can combine a bit of both, eg creating brand positioning, but they do tend to focus on one or the other.

The core skills of facilitation remain the same no matter what the session. Great planning, rapport building and creating a great process. However, you need to adapt your approach to suit the different types.

Here’s what…

Tony Franco

London based marketing trainer and coach

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