100 Days: Time to Take a Hard Look at Your Communications Strategy
There is always a lot of discussion in the media and around office water coolers about the first 100 days of a president’s term. What’s been accomplished? What’s on deck? Truly, a lot can be accomplished in 100 days whether you are starting a new job, launching a new campaign, building a business, or leading the free world.
The president is the CEO of the nation, so it makes sense to evaluate the leadership landscape at this point. While it’s unrealistic to think that the first 100 days hold the key to an executive’s tenure…it certainly sets the tone.
For any executive, the 100-day mark is a good opportunity to come up for air and assess how focused tactics are addressing your broader communications strategy. It’s also a good time to (re)address how you talk about your strategy publicly.
As you look back on the first 100 days of 2017, consider where your organization is headed, what is working, and where you might need a course adjustment.
The Big Picture
It’s important in business (and in life) to take a step back to think about the big picture from time to time. Understandably, a long term communications strategy can get lost dealing with the day-to-day challenges and adjusting tactics to fulfill immediate expectations. So, be sure to remind yourself to take a step back, re-evaluate, assess metrics, and relaunch.
When it comes to your larger communications strategy, considering these big picture items will help you manage expectations both with your team and your stakeholders. Consider how you talk about your goals, expectations, and the steps to success. If you feel out of your depth, it may make sense to find a corporate communications partner to walk you through this process.
Recognize When it’s Time to Pull Up
Recently, I met with the executives of a newly launched business. The experience was a great reminder of the importance of keeping the big picture on the radar. We spent the first 30 minutes of the meeting discussing business challenges; how they were addressing those challenges; and how to grow revenue while maintaining—or growing—profit margins.
It was a good tactical conversation. But it wasn’t why I had been invited there. This company was concerned that they were under-valued compared to their peer set. And while all of the tactics to improve operations and financial results were absolutely critical components to addressing the valuation challenge, the team’s strategic goal had gotten lost in their tactical focus.
It was time to pull up. I took them through a process designed to help them assess progress to date; revisit their broader challenge; and address market changes, competitive shifts, and investor perception.
Now was also the right time to take a look at how they had communicated their strategy to investors. Did they know what we were working toward and why? Had we shared critical milestones, success metrics, and off-ramps?
In the first days, months, and even years figuring out what business model to follow and what broad communications strategy will propel an organization forward most effectively is difficult. Sometimes you are so focused on growth and getting the right systems in place that communications takes a backseat.
But having a communications strategy in place, even one that is not perfect, will help you avoid headaches down the road. Suppose you know that you will need to ease back on production during the Q3 or Q4 next year. It will be a lot easier to explain a slow quarter next year if you keep investors in the loop as to your broader strategy starting now.
Keep in mind that strategy shouldn’t be a secret. Secrets = surprises. And surprises are interpreted as risk by investors.
So, as we look back at the last 100 days of 2017. Ask yourself and your team some difficult questions:
1. Have you clearly and publicly articulated your strategy and goals? If the answer is “hmmm… maybe not,” chances are good that your team’s hard work on all those tactical concerns will go unnoticed or unappreciated or unvalued. Or, what’s even worse, the hard work will be viewed as “noise” without an anchor to a broader goal.
2. Have you shared the key success metrics that accompany your strategy? Remember that you have some control over your own evaluation. If there are metrics or milestones that you have accomplished, but which are likely to be overlooked by external analysts, highlight them yourself.
3. How about some of the key tactics that you’ll employ to achieve those goals? Once you have articulated your goals, strategies, and key metrics, anchor the tactics in those goals. Point to, for example, cost reductions, research and development, implementation of new inventory tracking software, etc.
4. How does your broader strategy fit the operating environment? As you execute the tactics of your strategy, your market, and your competitors, your business also changes. Take a moment to pick your head up to assess your operating environment. The strategy you chose to govern the organization when you first launched may not hold up today.
5. What is your strategy to communicate progress against your plan? A steady drumbeat of updates (small and large) lets investors know that you’re chipping away at your strategy. So designate someone to play the role of chief communications officer who will decide when and how to communicate with investors.
Developing a communications strategy can be quite a challenge, especially for new businesses. Our experts have helped teams like yours take a step back, find the right strategy, and execute the plan. Let’s talk about how how we can help you!
Photo credit: peshkova / 123RF Stock Photo
Awesome!! Great idea. Getting lost in the weeds is all too common.