Caroline Catterall is CEO and Founder of PR and content marketing agency, Keep Left
Can you describe a major ‘lights on’ moment in your career… an event, occurrence or moment in your career when you learnt a powerful lesson that significantly changed your approach?
My lightbulb moment came sitting in the lecture hall of the Austin Convention Centre in Texas at the 2016 SXSW conference. I was listening to Maria Konnikova from the New York Times talk about her latest book, which looked at how some of the best conmen over the years were excellent storytellers and how we’re biologically hard-wired to be influenced by pervasive storytelling.
This concept seemed a bit left-field, as SXSW is fundamentally a technology conference, and there was a lot going through my head about data and measurability. While this was a complete change of pace, it also helped the light go off about the balance we need to strike in designing our campaigns – the blend of art and science, human and technology, which ultimately led me developing Keep Left’s ‘data driven storytelling’ positioning.
What was the background to the ‘lights on’ moment?
Interestingly, I nearly didn’t go to Maria’s session. It was at the end of the day in a lecture room that was a long way away. I looked at the summary and wasn’t sure how relevant it would be to me or to the outcomes I was hoping to achieve from the conference. But my Texan boots still had a few extra kilometres left in them, so I gave it a shot.
What was the major lesson you learned?
You never know where your ideas and inspiration are going to come from and often, they come from the most unlikely of people and places. Being too linear with the ideas, people and concepts you explore can be limiting. Go a bit left-field in life, throw yourself out there and you never know who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn or when that light bulb moment might strike.
How have you applied that lesson in your career and what has the impact been?
It’s about having a curious mind and taking a chance on things. I’ve pretty much being doing this my whole career and it’s led me to where I am now. Not everything will work out perfectly, but most will. I think the other big lesson is the power of creating the space and time to reflect. Hands down, my best ideas always come when I’m away from the office – on a plane, in a classroom, cooking dinner, or sitting in traffic. Space and time to reflect is so important for clarity of thought – don’t try and solve everything in the boardroom. At Keep Left we often do walking meetings to get ourselves into the right headspace for ideas generation, to test concepts and flesh out plans.
How do you believe other communicators could benefit from your experience and the lesson you’ve learned?
My advice would be to make a point of regularly doing something a bit left-of-field. And at the very least I’d love every person reading this to instigate a walking meeting in the next few weeks – I promise you won’t regret it (and don’t just take my word for it, apparently it worked for Steve Jobs too!)