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I love a good read, and especially one that continues over a series, in a beautiful, remote place, with much mystery and intrigue. 

 

The one constant in my life over the past three months has been my ongoing reading of Louise Penny’s murder mystery series called Three Pines, with Inspector Armand Gamache, based in Canada. I have read them on my Kindle, in hardcopy and on Audible, following the series along my journey across homes and countries, as if wholly dependent on the next segment in the story for my sanity. In some ways, that’s true. It’s an escape into a world that I see as consistent and predictable, by simply opening the pages. A comfortable space.

 

In my previous blog, I wrote about the link between action and inspiration, and told the story of how I crossed continents based on a life-changing trip to Israel. 

 

Today, I’m seeing a link between humanity and inspiration. Someone else’s humanity and creative efforts, to be more specific. And I’d like to link these two aspects further to my work as a marketing strategy consultant in school marketing. Because there is a link between the three.

 

The trouble with perfection

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering

There’s a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

 

That’s a quote from a poem in one of the novels in the Inspector Gamache series. I love it because it’s a reminder that we will all make mistakes. I will definitely make mistakes. It’s through mistakes, that we find beauty. Our humanity is what makes us real, and when we expect ourselves to be perfect, we’re no longer open to learning, growing and changing. We’re especially not open to others where we may need to be, both for them and for us.

 

Cracks are good. They let the light in.

 

This journey I’m on at the moment, working offshore in the UK for a while, consulting and training online and in-person, means that I have had to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve had to be kind to myself, as I make small mistakes daily – 

  • Getting off the bus too late and having to walk another block
  • Forgetting which room I’m supposed to be in
  • Wearing the wrong clothes for the weather (I get that a lot, though I’m getting better at it gradually)
  • Downloading the wrong app
  • Not finding a document in time
  • Buying the wrong groceries
  • Paying far too much for something
  • And many more!

 

So many small mistakes, but they quickly add up. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. 

 

What I’ve found is that, when I admit the mistakes, see the funny side of it, forgive myself, laugh with others about it, I move forward, I feel peace. The cracks let the light in.

 

In the same way, the author Louise Penny explained in a letter at the beginning of one of her books: “Welcome to the very cracked world of Armand Gamache and Three Pines. I am overjoyed to be able to share it with you.”

 

Why it’s relevant to what I do

 

I recall writing a LinkedIn post about the broken model of traditional management consulting. I’m sure you’d agree that consulting companies, in general, don’t have a great brand image – When you hear that consultants are coming to do some work at your own organisation, do you get excited?

 

Or, do you cringe, thinking of the way that consultants have often come in, asked a lot of questions, analysed the data with a whole lot of charts, and then told you what to do and gone away, leaving a nice fat report on the shelf. And an even fatter invoice. It’s a hands-free arrangement, and heavily one-sided. I do hope it’s changing.

 

Consultants today must change, must be relevant, and must find a way to understand the sector, to feel some of the pain as well as the joys, the humanity, the cracks. This is especially true when working with schools, because they are ‘people environments’ and all (or mostly) about the children.

 

One thing I’ve learnt (often the hard way) by part-time teaching, is that you can’t pretend with teenagers. They will see right through you. You need to involve them and bring them in, let them feel seen and appreciated, even with their imperfections. It’s a good lesson for a consultant.

 

I do believe that independent consultants, especially in market research and marketing strategy, play a vital role in helping us to see a fresh perspective, a customer viewpoint, the things we cannot see from inside the organisation. But the customer isn’t always right. Parents aren’t always right. They may feel they’re right, but in many cases it’s a case of misinformation, miscommunication, lack of listening or reading or comprehending, which is always someone else’s fault. There are cracks. There are imperfections.

 

So, authentic marketing is what I try to achieve, and what I try to integrate into all my work.

 

That means that it’s okay to see the cracks. It’s okay to tell stories that are not perfect, that may reveal some of our vulnerabilities, as well as mine. Because it’s through the cracks that the light comes in. I also try to incorporate co-creation into all my projects, building capacity and involving the marketer in the creation of some of the final outcomes. I also try to get feedback on ways to improve my own offering, to be more relevant, to give value.

 

Video marketing reveals the cracks

 

In closing, a thought about the medium of video in school marketing.

 

It’s a well known fact that video is a medium which tends to build the most trust. This is what makes it so powerful, so popular.

 

One of the reasons is that it reveals far more to the viewer than text, images or audio can do. It pulls you in, gets you to feel something. Despite all the effects and staging we may do in creating video, it’s in the imperfections of self-made video where marketing is so powerful. Not the professional, glossy videos (which also do have an important place, meeting a different objective). It’s in the cracks. That’s what builds trust, builds bridges, makes the viewer feel a connection.

 

I made a YouTube video on this topic of imperfection on video during the pandemic, back in 2020 – I do think that it was a time when we all suddenly realised the value of video, both live and recorded. Looking back on it now, it all makes a lot more sense how video came into its own – We’re still in the age of imperfection today.

 

I’ve often considered setting my YouTube videos as private, as they’re not great in their production quality. I’ve had numerous messages from video companies offering to help me make beautiful videos, for a fee of course. But time and time again, the genuine value of the raw content on the videos and their unfiltered, human approach wins over. Let me know what you think –

 

Let’s make more videos!

 

“There’s a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

 

If you would like to know more about the work I do with independent schools in research-based marketing strategy, email me on keryn@housewayconsulting.co.za or contact me via the contact page on this website.

 

I'm Keryn House

I enjoy writing on my niche in marketing strategy for independent schools. I’m inspired by global trends driving change in this sector – from consumer trends to educational trends to market and macro trends.

I like to draw from my background in strategy across multiple sectors as well as my personal and professional journey to craft short conversational and topical pieces.

I hope you feel informed, inspired and supported as readers of this blog from wherever you are in the world. I encourage comments and suggestions on content. Please also connect with me on my social platforms.