Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Follow Through or Threw

Since my last blog I've sat down with several of my clients (and potential clients) to map out a plan for the coming year. (I prefer to do that the 4th quarter of the previous year but at least they did it.)

While planning is great, its the follow through that is most important in order to achieve the desired results. I've often found that the annual marketing and communication plan is something that's just thrown out the window by second quarter.

I'll always agree that we need to stay flexible in order to take advantage of opportunities BUT its important to stay on target and follow through with annual communication plans.

Over the years I've heard all the excuses....
- Too busy to provide information and feedback
- Other areas of the business are too demanding
- Budget has been eaten up by another marketing project
- Overnight the company has suddenly become well-known and respected

and then there's my favorite......

- Business is good and we really don't need more customers

Inevitably a few months goes by and then the client calls in a panic wanting to know how I can help. Of course they remember the plan we discussed and they threw away. They hope that I can drop everything and get the business back on track. I wish life was that easy.

My advice is to continue with the plan you map out at the beginning of the year and allow for changes in the business. A business needs to be proactive and take control over how its perceived by the public, customers and potential customers. Most of us want more customers.

Three newsletters a year instead of four is okay. Fewer press releases is better than none. Choosing one big project or issue to publicize can often make a larger impact than 10 smaller ones.

Be flexible. Follow through.

Don't be one of those companies who's looking in the bushes for the communications plan they threw out the window. It will be too late.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year - Make a Plan

Over the years I've found that clients (and even some of the corporations I've worked in-house for) really don't want to plan. They act like they are going to have an anxiety attack if they have to view it all on a piece of paper.

What I've learned is that with the marketing function you MUST plan in order to propel a company forward. This doesn't mean that you can never deviate from the plan. Us marketing folks in fact do understand quite well that business life is much like personal life - the unexpected happens. Like in personal life, we deal with things as they arise. But you must have a plan on how to deal with the situation, keep it under control and keep the business on track.

In the public relations arena we know all too well how important the "plan" can be.

Crisis communication -- you better have a plan in a crisis or who knows who will say what to that reporter.

Messaging -- there should be an overarching message in every communication to employees, media, stakeholders, etc. You want to instill confidence after all.

Calendar -- take control and plan a calendar of outgoing communication. Every organization can take control of their image by initiating regular communication to the media and to their stakeholders. Newsletters, press releases, blogs are all good ways to plan to take control. Otherwise its up to reporters or even worse -the rumor mill - to spread the news about the organization.

My New Year's advice to anyone looking to utilize communication and marketing in order to have a positive impact on their business or organization -- Plan, Plan, Plan.

And then be flexible.

Happy New Year.