Ten years ago today, December 31, 1999, I met Jan Harness, my (then future) creative instigation partner, via phone call.
When I've shared the specifics of first talking with Jan, people have commented how sweet it is I remember the event in such detail. Really though, the story's a great example of creating memorable brand experiences.
A post last October spelled out a formula for memorable brand experiences springing from the convergence of three factors - personal interests, emotional intensity, and a brand's role in the experience. Against that framework, here's how the story of meeting Jan played out:
- High Personal Interest - I was charged with creating presentations for our company's introductory 2,000 person customer conference which was barely 2 weeks away. Among the challenges, there was no convincing the CIO that with Y2K looming, nobody cared about the history of the computer - her desired way to open her speech. With many other presentations also needing massive amounts of writing effort, it seemed so hopeless my boss was finally convinced I needed outside help for it all to get done.
- Emotional Intensity - The conference was a big deal, with high expectations for success. We were having various production issues, so the pressure was intensifying as time slipped away. The news was also filled with stories about the ominous potential danger from Y2K. All that led to a pretty vivid sense of the date when Jan and Barb Pruitt got on the phone to see how they might be able to help rescue me.
- A (Personal) Brand's Role in Enabling the Experience - We quickly figured out the basis of how we'd work, and Jan got started. Within the two weeks leading up to the conference, Jan came in, learned our company and the presenters, and dramatically improved our ability to creatively communicate our important messages. In fact, she had such an impact before the show that she became part of the traveling team responsible for the conference’s on-site production.
As a side note, Jan and I have a brother/sister kind of creative relationship, i.e. we pick on each other (okay maybe it's me picking on Jan) constantly. Yet when @lqualls4444 asked the other day on Twitter if Jan knew how much I appreciate her contribution to my creativity, it was great to say, "Yes." Amid a recent late night email rant, I'd shared "lavish praise" for Jan's talents. Here's an excerpt:
"...this experience has reinforced for me not only what a talented writer you are, but that you are the [dare I say] unique [or at least relatively rare] strategist who happens to also be a fantastic writer. There's a HUGE difference between getting words into sentences and a bunch of sentences on a page and organizing thinking, themes, and words in a consistent, strategic flow. You are the best of anyone I've ever worked with at doing that. You create tremendously high expectations for others after having worked with you, and I'm not sure there are many out there who can meet them!!!"
So, if you need a great strategist who also happens to write fantastically, seek out my creative instigation partner of 10 years, Jan Harness! - Mike Brown