2017 APG Planning Idol Experience

The APG Planning Idol final wrapped up last week in Sydney and I was lucky enough to be invited to present my idea to some of the best minds in our business. It was one of the more challenging, rewarding experiences of my career.

APG Planning Idol is a biannual competition that partners with a not-for-profit organisation to create a curly brief for industry professionals under 30 to apply some original thinking to. This year’s brief was on behalf of the Australian Red Cross and revolved around the issue of deep social exclusion in Australia; not a simple or small problem to solve. 

Stage one: Getting down and dirty with the brief

The first few weeks of Planning Idol are all about diving as deep as you can into the issue. Read everything you can; break it down, build it up, and break it apart again; talk to people, all the people; get weird about it. And hopefully after all of that, you come out the other side with some unique insights or angles into the brief. The beauty of the brief this year was that it was so multifaceted, the approaches were endless. 

For me, I had decided pretty early on in the piece that I wanted to crack a specific audience segment. After a few weeks, deadline fast approaching, it became pretty evident that all my ideas were too complicated and none of the solutions felt authentic. With three days to spare, I switched tact and landed on an idea that just seemed to click. An idea I believed could significantly shift the needle.

In 1500 words I put forward a written case for the idea, including a summary of the issue framed by insights, a description of my big strategic idea, and summary for how this idea was going to really make a difference. Off it went for blind judging *heart in throat*.

Stage two: PER>SYD

One of the best feelings was getting that congratulatory email letting me know my submission had made the national final. The invitation was to fly to Sydney and pitch in front of a panel of ten judges made up by representatives from The Australian Red Cross and key industry professionals. 

Once there, each of the 16 finalists had 10 minutes to pitch their idea, and 5 minutes for the judges to ask questions. Despite the anticipation before the pitch, the room was incredibly friendly and engaged, and it took no time at all to feel more excitement than nerves.  

Following the pitches, the whole group met at Hotel CBD for the awards night, and to be honest, this was the part of the process I was most keen for. It was an opportunity for all the finalists to discuss their ideas, compare insights and research, and reminisce about the day. After the awards wrapped up, a few new friends and I headed to a bar overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge to celebrate the finals; a nice end to a big few weeks.

Stage three: Reflection

Now back in Perth, I have had some time to reflect on the process and have a few learnings from the experience:

1. Sometimes, no matter how much you want an idea or direction to work, it just doesn’t. That’s okay, it’s part of the process. Learn from it and take another run at it from a different direction.
2. There is no need to tackle these things alone. Testing your idea by having people listen to your pitch, ask questions, and poke holes will ultimately make the idea better.
3. Passion for the idea is the most important thing, both in success and in failure.

Although I didn’t win, I walked away having met some incredibly smart people, had the opportunity to present my thinking in front of a group of people I really respect, and swap some pretty cool ideas to help solve an important issue. I encourage everyone to embrace competitions like this one; you get to take ownership over some really important issues and use your brain for good. No matter the outcome, the experience is well worth the time and effort.

A big thank you to The Communication Council, APG, the Judges, the client, all the competitors, and my Brand Agency support team for this awesome experience.

Article posted by Emily Colman