We Hit the Reset Button on Lunch & Learns

Guest post contributed by Kristin Nelson, Director of Public Relations

The GS&F Hard Refresh agency workshop started innocently enough. The conversation went something like this:

“Kristin, we want you to own the GS&F Lunch & Learn program.”

“Okay, but our folks are working hard, so it’s challenging to get them to step away from their work.”

“Then make them want to.”

“Setting the bar only a little high here, huh?”


We aligned on a single-minded proposition to drive our efforts: “lunch & learns so popular you’ll be on a waiting list for reservations.”

First, we looked at our audience to understand what would create the pull. We began—as we always do at GS&F—with an audience-first mindset. We conducted a series of surveys and small group research across the agency. We had to face the hard truth: GS&F hadn’t been successful with lunch & learn programs in the past, so we had to change unpopular opinions.

The feedback we received was pretty obvious: Provide can’t-miss content that supports the team’s growth…and provide snacks. The snacks are the easy part, so in order to change our team’s opinions on lunch & learns we would need to dig deep and focus on the content experience.

We knew that our Friends had a thirst for learning, but we needed to understand what they were interested in learning, how they wanted to consume this information and who we could harness as our ambassadors to drive stickiness of the program.

We focused on four key areas:

1. Investing in our team so they will invest in themselves on behalf of the agency

2. Creating an environment that put a pause on work—no computers, no phones, no sidebar conversations—allowing our team to immerse themselves in the content.

3. Sustaining the initiative through ongoing iterations, updates and improvements by activating a feedback loop and open lines of communication.

4. Generating buzz through mystery and mystique.

The planning team grounded the program in a concept and brand to help ensure its longevity and overall success. And that’s when Hard Refresh came to life.

It’s a fun and interactive workshop series designed to challenge the way we all think. GS&Fers work hard and play harder, but somewhere between the hard work and the hard play, we could all use a hard break. Hard Refresh is that somewhere.

This series of interactive events will take us out of our comfort zones and into a place no GS&Fer has gone before.

There, we’ll forget everything we know to learn something new, and maybe—just maybe—we’ll all be better for it. So shut down those laptops and step away from the desks. It’s time to clear our GS&Fing minds with a Hard Refresh.

For the first Hard Refresh, the planning team delivered a cryptic message asking Friends to come to a random, unoccupied tenant space in the building.

One key piece of information we included? A billing code.

Why is this important? Our business model revolves around billable time. At GS&F, we value growth and development time so heavily that we require our team members to “bill” time spent on it just like we bill media, creative or PR project time.

Through a series of interactive workshops, our Friends have learned more about themselves, the agency as a whole and the world around us. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried—sometimes even without snacks (but no tears because no snacks).

Have we done our job? Yeah, we like to think so. Check out some of our workshop highlights.

Improv Yourself: We called on members of a local improv troupe to offer an entertaining exploration into the skills associated with improv acting. We wanted to learn how they can be applied to the work we do both inside and outside our walls through brainstorming, strategic development and troubleshooting. After an entertaining warmup, teams were challenged to use classic improv skills to develop strategic marketing approaches to some outrageous—and odd—mock challenges. This course gave the phrase “Yes, and…” a whole new meaning.

The Art of Feedback: For our third workshop, we brought in a performance development consultant to help us explore how to ask for, give and receive feedback effectively within the workplace. The goal was not only to develop and improve our teamwork and integration skills within the agency but to also grow as collaborative individuals beyond our work at GS&F. Participants brought a work sample they had in progress (a creative brief, design or press release, for example) for a workshop over breakfast and good coffee.

The Great Pursuit: No one casually drifts towards great. It takes an intentional commitment to dig a little deeper, turn over one more stone and sometimes even start over completely just when it feels like we’ve almost reached the finish line. It’s a daily decision to reject mediocrity and run fiercely in the direction not many others are going. This workshop, featuring a diverse panel of our Friends, explored the decisions we make to find our personal creative best, overcome our own self-doubt and create work that makes every ounce of hustle more than worth it in the end.

So why does Hard Refresh matter? Well, because we know that great work doesn’t just happen. We’re dedicated to setting the stage for truly great ideas to jump out. And when each of us is on the path toward individual growth? Just wait til we put our heads together. (Check out what’s happened so far.)

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