New trends in comms and marketing rush by at the speed of light. Platforms launch, algorithms change. But there is a constant in our industry and that’s the need for a good comms plan. So what’s the best way of achieving this?
By Darren Caveney
I'm a lucky old sausage.
I'll tell you why later.
Every job has its pros and cons. One of the absolute best parts of what I do is working with teams to create news comms strategies.
Last week I was fortunate to work with two great comms teams - in different sectors and with different remits – and it was really interesting to see where they have similar challenges.
'Comms planning' is a constant challenge for teams in our industry, that’s for sure.
“What we need is a comms plan…”
Oh if only I’d had those T-shirts made with this oh so common request emblazoned on the front when I had the idea five years ago. I’d be sat in Mauritius now sipping on a mojito in between counting my millions.
In my experience one of the biggest challenges for teams is that they rarely get sufficient time to collaborate and work on their comms plans and campaigns together as a team. And that’s a real shame.
First off let me start by saying that this isn't a criticism - I was a comms director and head for 12 years so I know exactly how this feels and how it can happen. You're asked to deliver 50 things and guess what - you don't have 2 hours spare to sit in a room and be creative as a whole team on shaping a plan which can fly.
Yet this approach really can get results.
It's a part of what I call 'creating the magic 10%' and you can read about it here.
Because of competing demands and time pressures what often happens instead is that an individual officer picks up the responsibility for writing a plan even though they may not be expert in all of the areas which could make or break its success.
This is the ‘created by me’ model.
Last week was a chance to do it differently and hats off to the two teams for making this happen. Sat in a room with the space to think and chat together can be powerful.
Communicators are a creative bunch but we need to be given the time, space and environment to enable this to flourish.
This is the ‘created by we’ model.
My role last week was to facilitate, spark debate, help look for solutions, and then write it up as a plan with recommendations.
That's why I'm a lucky sausage because I am in the very fortunate position where I have the capacity and time to do this.
It’s rewarding and it's rich in learning all-round.
Team one’s challenge
Was to create a new comms model against a backdrop of reducing resources. This is a tough but common dilemma, particularly in the public sector right now. The 'more for less' policy just isn't going to work. Instead precious resources need to be used against clearly defined organisational priorities. Before you scream at me I know I am stating the bleeding obvious - but sometimes it’s useful to state the bleeding obvious.
The team are helping to shape the new model and that's to be applauded.
Team two’s challenge
This was different again but no less of an issue and opportunity.
The brief was to create a digital comms plan for a significant happening.
All parts of the team from digital to media, marketing to design, collaborated.
The end result was a very healthy starter for 20 comms plan with a sense of direction and identified next steps. That took an hour, and was a brilliant use of their collective time.
Again, I had the easy job. But it was rewarding to see the ideas flow and the team working as one. Hats off again.
3 lessons to better comms planning
1. Making the time is key
Make the time - mange your demand. This may sound dull but if you haven't got your demand management in a good place then the magic 10% can wither and die before it ever had the chance to flower.
An hour or two away from phones, meetings and email can be hard to make happen but with a good, clear remit, coffee and cake, and pens and paper, brilliant things can emerge.
2. Sometimes the best ideas come from those you least expect
Ideas and solutions can and do come from all parts of the team and they are not restricted to their individual areas of specialism either.
And one idea can spark another, and another, and another. It’s brilliant to see that happen.
3. None of us has all of the answers…
But by working together in a group we can come close to having most of the answers.
Creating a brilliant new plan or campaign jointly really can be quite transformative and build a genuine bond between colleagues.
And that alone is reason enough to make time for the magic 10%.
I would love to hear about how you do this in your teams - your successes and your challenges. Give me a shout if you fancy writing about it for comms2point0.co.uk to share your lessons.
Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and founder of creative communicators ltd