Once upon a time, a communication leader scoffed at this one guy because the youngling talked so much about the need for strategic planning in PR. The Venerable One said, "What's the point? We'll spend all that time and energy telling people what we're going to do, then announce a merger and nothing will happen."
The wet-behind-the-ears one says, "But if we don't connect what we do with business goals, we won't be able to explain our value, and will suffer from low budgets and lack of resources!"
With a growl worthy of a balrog, the leader said "Okay, 'Strategy Boy,' that's enough."
There is no doubt that talking strategy to someone who isn't strategic is a dead end. At best, they don't buy what you're selling and give you a swift kick in the...pants. At worst, you get the reputation for being "that guy" who won't shut up about the dang strategy. Strategy Boy flirted with that undesirable outcome, but thought better of antagonizing the veteran. Instead, he decided to do his own planning.
"OK," he says, "if the big kahuna doesn't want to plan, I'll plan." He takes the business objectives and starts looking at what his part of the department does and makes a list -- one side, things that directly contribute to the business objectives (sales support, operational and compliance, product information, managerial communication support) and the other, stuff that helps, but less directly (strategic direction, HR information, general management info, case studies), and prioritizes his own work accordingly.
He starts working a bit with colleagues to share his thoughts in this respect, and finds supporters among his peers. For example, as a team, they create a daily editorial meeting to discuss what would be put on the intranet news area the next day, and plan for coming days. Beefing up manager communication came next, including a survey and an overall research-based plan for how to make managers more effective at communicating.
When the inevitable merger was announced, Strategy Man got assigned to the project team, and got good feedback from them on his contributions to the communication plan. He learned which "hills" were worth fighting for, and which weren't. He saw the flaw in developing a plan only from his own perspective, and began reaching out to others to gain intel and improve the plan. He asks more questions and makes fewer statements; he learns how to consult more effectively.
As time went on, people notice how he works, and how things get done when he's helping out. Soon enough, someone who value planning even more recruited Strategy Man away to a new organization. And though there was great joy at the new place, the cause of planning waned at the previous one, and slowly, surely, they sank back into tactical mode. Strategy Man was sad about that, mostly because he still had friends there who would pine for the days of strategy and planning. But in the end, the company kept on keeping on, and so it does to this day.
The moral of the story? There is a limit to the long-term effects of planning and strategy, and even Strategy Man isn't Superman! In this way, he learns humility, and takes joy in small victories.
This is a fable, only partially based on reality, but I'm hopeful it makes the point!
This post originally ran on LinkedIn.
Posted on Thu, March 26, 2015
by Sean Williams