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'Listen like you’re wrong' and other insights from Brand Love Academy

Alfred Smith, head of operations at Amnet, was one of the lucky five New Zealand rising talents flown to Sydney to take part in Verizon Media’s inaugural Brand Love Academy. Here are his takeaways from the exclusive two-day event.

April 5, 2019 | Sponsored content

Alfred Smith, head of operations at Amnet

Brand Love Academy started on Tuesday, 26 March with an early rise in Auckland and a flight over to Sydney to begin a jam-packed two days. It was a privilege to be given the chance to attend and great to see four others joining me from mighty New Zealand (including one who had never travelled outside the country before).

A quick pause here to thank everyone who put us forward and supported us participating in this incredible opportunity across the pond (with a special mention to Arnaud Calonne, Verizon Media’s New Zealand sales director).

Now down to business!

Gathering at the Verizon Media offices, the travelling delegates were greeted by the Verizon crew and after a delicious food spread was devoured, we launched into our mentoring sessions.

Luckily for me I landed an hour session with Verizon Media MD Paul Sigaloff. It was great not only to see him involved in mentoring but throughout the event.

Paul had some great words of advice but what came through loud and clear was that companies need to focus not only on tech but people as well. This starts with making sure you know what makes you happy and inspired yourself.

This session was a personal highlight and renewed my focus on ensuring that everyone is happy in the workplace. It's something that can often be forgotten in the whirlwind of day to day work, but one I will make a point to regularly address with my team at Amnet, as well as in my future appointments. 

Day two - The Main Event

“Good is no longer good enough”

A bold statement launched us into an entertaining hour with Dan Gregory, co-founder and CEO of The Impossible Future, who covered everything from perceptions of your personal brand to examples of engaging customers above and beyond.


Dan Gregory

The takeout which really resonated was “what value are you adding”. A question that I feel probably isn't asked often enough in the workplace, ranging from meeting attendance to work on client projects. It's definitely a phrase that I will be applying to steam line my days in the future!

“Argue like you are right and listen like you are wrong”

This phrase was the one that I heard echoing about the room for the rest of the day, seemingly making everyone question their own approach. It came out of a great session all about data and run by two people with conveniently rhyming names “Data Dan and Dom” (a.k.a Verizon Media’s Head of Data Dan Richardson and Atlassian’s Work Futurist Dominic Price) - unfortunately, under this criteria my data career might be cut short!

This truly struck a chord with me and will be something I will use in building my personal brand as I think all too often I end up firmly in the middle ground of compromise, which is often suboptimal in the long term.


Dan Richardson and Dominic Price

“Build a marshmallow tower like a toddler”

With an exercise building a marshmallow tower, Zoe Cocker took us on a tour of creativity and why this matters in a world where sometimes we get caught up in metrics and forget that we are all humans with a heart. Behave like a toddler was the mantra, the most creative point in your life being at this age-based around a lack of learnt rules and process. However, bring only the creativity not the toddler tantrums to your next meeting!

This wasn't just a key memory of the day due to my tower not being a tower at all. But being an operations man made me think about where creativity needs to be applied and how we can humanise what we do. There is always a human viewing an ad and we need to consider the emotions we evoke.

Verizon Media’s head of brand and RYOT used Nike’s internationally famous Colin Kapernick ad to demonstrate this. Despite having watched this advert about 50 times in various places, it still evokes something inside of me.


Marshmellow challenge

And finally… the big pitch-off

The final act of the event was then upon us, the pitch off to win the not small prize of a trip to Advertising Week in New York City!

The challenge set was to help the charity Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD) raise money for the great work they do by running a sustainable fundraising event. After a frantic hour of preparation and brainstorming, we were up in front of a panel of judges presenting ideas that ranged from concerts to radio takeovers.

The winning team scooped the trip with an idea based around CEO away days, praised for its simplicity, money-making ability and clear presentation.

While I sadly wasn’t part of that winning team, this was a truly valuable experience from presenting in front of a large audience to highlighting what can be produced under pressure.

And with this, the event came to a close with a few well-deserved refreshments.

Once again thanks to Verizon Media, for giving us a great two days of learning, listening and personal brand development! 

This piece is part of a content partnership with Verizon Media.

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