Always Ask Why: Alyssa Moskowitz, RPA

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It's not easy to identify all of the opportunities - you also have to dig into whether or not they make sense.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role?

My name is Alyssa Moskowitz and I work at RPA as a Strategic Planning Director on the La-Z-Boy and Pocky accounts, along with new business. I started at RPA 11 years ago this month as a planning intern and have been able to work across a diverse set of accounts and categories along the way.

How did you get your start as a strategist? What led you to pursue it as a career?

It was a bit of a winding road to get here… I knew in high school I had a very analytical mind, but a summer program at NASA for future aerospace engineers made me realize that the day-to-day of math and science-based careers was not how I wanted to spend my life. A random project for English had me examining parts of speech in advertising — and I found it fascinating how brands used language in different ways to create and shift attitudes. So I went into college as an advertising major — figuring I could always change it if I wasn’t into it. I used a series of internships in college to find my place in the industry — trying everything from PR to SEO to social media – before an agency suggested I try strategic planning based on my background. It wasn’t taught as a full discipline in undergrad then, but during the interview it sounded like the perfect blend of my analytical side and the creative side that didn’t want to be stuck in a dark room running numbers.

What set of skills do you believe it takes for a strategist to thrive in the current advertising landscape?

This role has shifted so much from when I started — we’re now expected to be true business partners and our clients come to us to help them solve issues that go far beyond advertising (and even communications) into everything from customer experience to product development to full-pipeline sales measurement. While it’s great to be such a valued partner — it takes a much broader range of business and marketing skills and a deeper understanding of every part of a client’s business.

What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? What helps keep the work interesting for you?

It’s probably a cliché but the most challenging part is exactly what keeps it the most interesting — and that’s that no two days have ever been the same. Every day presents a new challenge and we have to come up with the right approach to solve them. Planning is not for people looking to settle into a comfortable work routine — but that’s exactly what keeps it fun for me.

Is there a part of the role that you feel is often misunderstood?

That it is always a complicated process for strategists to get to an answer — so we only add time to a process. Of course, we can always dig further and provide more backup and rationale, but we’ve also built up a lot of intuition about what works and what doesn’t and can help come to a solution quickly when that’s what the challenge calls for.

Do you have any advice for those looking to work in a similar role?

My advice to strategists starting out is to always ask “why.” It’s not enough to identify all of the opportunities — but you also have to dig into whether or not they make sense. Just because we can do something cool, doesn’t mean we should. That’s what really sets apart a good strategist from a great one to me.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of culture? Where do you look for inspiration?

I remember in my first review, my manager saying “I see you on Facebook and social media at work.” I got nervous until she said “Good job, keep that up. You always seem to know what’s going on.” And it’s true, my slight addiction to social media comes in handy multiple times a week — whether it’s referencing an article someone posted or noticing trends as they emerge. I know I’m involved in different sub-cultures online (like fashion upcycling and fur-fluencers) than the rest of my department, which helps keep the agency well-rounded. Keeping track of what’s breaking into the general population helps me make sure we’re not just talking to what others in the industry think is working with our efforts.