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#SaveOurHighStreet - The Drum Plan It Day

October 13, 2016

‘Would you like to attend The Drum Plan It Day tomorrow?', I was asked on a busy Tuesday afternoon.

I instantly said yes - not really knowing what the Plan It Day was - knowing it would be something I wouldn't want to miss out on. I've been following The Drum online now for a number of years and find it an invaluable resource for the latest industry news and information.

For the rest of that afternoon I went into research mode and my interest peaked when I read that I would soon be working with some of the smartest minds in marketing, tasked with solving some of the world's biggest problems in a warehouse in London. What an opportunity I thought...if a little daunting!

Fortunately, I would not be alone. My work colleague Laura was also invited and we quickly started to wonder which challenge we would be working on and how we might be able to help. Then we both received an email, confirming the challenge – Business in The Community.

Our Challenge: To inspire and empower 100 businesses with tools across the UK to become local leaders in all the high streets they operate in.

I went to sleep that night with my mind full of ideas – I was looking forward to getting stuck in.

Plan It Day

I woke full of enthusiasm for the day ahead and headed out to the train station to start the journey to the warehouse situated on the famous Brick Lane in London. Walking over to the warehouse, the realisation set in that I could be responsible for contributing to a movement that could potentially change the world – no pressure there then!

The warehouse was bustling with people and the atmosphere was electric. The first presentation was from Gordon Young, the Editor-in-Chief of The Drum. He set the tone and outlined the structure of the day. We were all here to work with some amazing brands and charities – to use our combined brainpower to solve some real challenges in a relatively short amount of time. Brands, agencies, media owners and tech suppliers all working together to help 'change the world'.

Next up was the partners panel, who talked about how they would be able to help us with our ideas. Then came the keynote speaker - Shed Simove - the 'Ideas Man' and founder of the ‘tilt swap’ app. What a fantastic presentation it was too. Inspiring, funny and motivating – he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He talked about his principles of coming up with creative ideas and discussed his practical tips on idea generation, and how to execute them as well. His website is well worth a look.

Our briefings from our challenger came next. We gathered around Business in The Community's enterprise and culture director, Jane Pritchard, who outlined the challenge - to rally together businesses across the UK to turn around the decline of the high street and ultimately increase footfall, turning around empty premises and creating jobs.

We were then put together into smaller groups. After a quick round of introductions and with a table full of pads, pens and highlighters we got to work, letting our ideas flow.

Several minutes passed. I looked down at my notepad. Nothing. It would appear generating ideas on the spot is harder than it sounds. To be told to sit down and come up with some ideas on the spot is difficult. But with Shed's presentation still ringing in my ears, some ideas slowly began to materialise and we all started to relax and enjoy the experience.

We started to toy with the idea of how we would feel if our own High Street was suddenly shut down. What would happen to the local businesses? What would happen to the property prices, the schools, employment? The High Street is the hub of a community and without it, a town could quickly decline into chaos.

And so that became our idea - how could we generate awareness that the High Street is an integral part of a community and that if local businesses don't start working and supporting each other, it could be the death of the High Street?

The death of the High Street

What an interesting concept. And so our idea crystallised. We would take the radial approach of staging a spoof death of a High Street, complete with a social media campaign, closure signs, eviction notices and local media coverage.

We are going to document the whole thing. Recording real reactions when we tell local residents and business owners, then that their beloved High Street would soon be closing. We want real emotion and it would all come together under the hashtag #SaveOurHighStreet. We want to raise awareness of the troubling outcome if businesses failed to come together for the greater good.

All we had to do now was to flesh out the details and work on our 3-minute pitch to a panel of judges who would decide whether our idea would make it to Do It Day.

One last presentation on how to prepare for a pitch and then an hour to get everything together. We all felt excited and slightly nervous. We knew that it was a risky strategy. Staging a spoof closure of a High Street is not going to be easy and how we sensitively deal with people’s emotions and reactions would be challenging. But we all knew we had a good idea that, if executed in the right way, could generate lots of awareness for the charity.

The first group to pitch their idea came up with a fantastic concept of 'The High Street High School' where the big name brands on the high street would pass on their experience and expertise in a classroom environment with practical lessons such as ‘maths' being used to inform other smaller businesses of the kind of financial and numerical practices which have allowed them to be as successful as they are.

A tough act to follow.

We were next. We set the scene. 'How would you feel if your High Street Closed? Well that's exactly what we're going to do...'

We ran through our plan and as we glanced down and saw the slight look of shock and horror on the panels faces, we knew we got our point across. That was exactly the reaction we were hoping for. We wanted to shock people into action.

Once all the other pitches had finished there was a 15-minute wait, while the judges deliberated who would be the finalists for Do It Day.

And so the winners were announced. After hearing both plans, Jane Pritchard, concluded that BITC could not afford to pass on either. The High Street High School plan will be put into practice on Do it Day while our #SaveOurHighStreet will be attempted later.

We were all winners and absolutely delighted with the result.

After a quick interview with The Drum to discuss our idea in more detail, the day was done. It was 17:00 and I was ready to relax. It was a fantastic day and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I now look forward to actually implementing our plan!


Plan It Day