In our industry, it’s easy to lose perspective. We get carried away with the furious pace of our work – the breathless brainstorms, the last-minute concepts, the midnight redesigns, the taxi-ride write-ups. So it should come as no surprise that we sometimes lose touch with reality and don’t give a thought to how the things we’re thinking might sound to someone outside our loopy loop.
Which is where, for me, the wife standard comes in. Or to be less personal about it, the voice of reason. It’s only a wife standard for me because my wife works in a very different sector from me and therefore is my own voice of reason. It helps that she’s Scottish and can, with one beautifully fluted but whiplashingly delivered phrase, pull me up short like I’ve run into a granite obelisk. “But why would [insert brand] do that?” she asks me. “Sounds more like something they’d like to be seen to be doing than something their customers would actually like them to do. Now can you stop talking please?”
At the beginning, it was a harsh reality to accept. “But you don’t understand…” I would say, a little too much like a whining teenager for my own liking. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how right she was, and that the ‘why’ of these campaigns and activations was coming a very poor second to the ‘how’. And from then on, I started to ask the same questions in a similarly sledgehammer style, even to the point of adopting a faintly East Lothian burr – luckily for my own career, though, I mostly asked myself. But I also encouraged our agency teams to question ideas in the same way (albeit without the accent), and so avoiding PR for PR’s sake and ultimately focussing on activity that always had the ‘why’ at its heart.
So if you don’t already have one, find your own voice of reason. It helps inordinately to have it in your life on a regular basis. A straight-talking friend, a blunt sibling, a quirkily dressed but honest aunt – it doesn’t matter what your relationship is to your voice of reason. It just matters that you listen to it when it comes to that all-important ‘why’.
Find it, consult it, heed it and spend some proper time with it. And if you want to marry it, that works pretty well too.