Comms strategy: when dreams don’t match reality

I hope you know that you’re not alone if you find your comms strategy dream does not always match the reality.

I drew a doodle to illustrate this.

The comms dream vs the comms reality describes on one side how the you want it to go strategically, and on the other side it's chaos, with lots of coffee and compromises

 

If you’re a comms pro, social media manager, or marketing person, you might think, ‘How do other people do amazing work so effortlessly?’.

The thing is, you actually know how to be strategic, but you often seem to be in circumstances that don’t allow a strategic approach to happen.

And sometime your comms strategy is a document that gets written, signed-off and never looked at again.

It’s easy to imagine that the successful comms and marketing pros are strategic all the time: they put their creative ideas into practice, they say no to anything that’s not in their plan, they get recognition from their bosses, and they get awards because they’re the most talented and worthy.

And you wonder, ‘how can I be more like them’? Here’s a secret: most of those successful people ARE like that – but only for a few days per month, or year. All you know about is what they got right. Your hero didn’t win awards by telling people all the times they were late to a meeting, with dry shampoo in the hair and cat hair all over their jacket.

The high achievers don’t do presentations about when they took on too much work and let someone down with a half-finished job. They are human too, but they tell you what they did that was good, and sounded like it was part of the plan.

The truth is, most people at some point are swimming in chaos, flapping about, and hosing down fires. Because life, and work, isn’t straight-forward.

A comms strategy made for perfect world (that doesn’t exist!)

Many strategies are made with a stable environment in mind, and a rose-tinted view of how complex organisations behave.

However, even in the healthiest working cultures, you’re in an uncontrollable situation. Your colleagues and clients each have different personal and professionals ideas, goals, and ambitions. They have good days and bad days, which will affect how they work with you.

There are things they don’t know about our profession, that they don’t know they don’t know. Leaders tell you they want one thing, but actually want something else. Your market research may tell you that your audience likes something, but actually they don’t want it.

External factors – pandemics, news agendas, the economy, even the flipping weather – can throw us a curveball. No wonder our jobs are difficult! Then there is us.

We can fix some things, but not everything

We see lots of ways we could improve our working practices, and we want to get rid of this blasted fire-fighting, reactive way of working. But when someone you like asks you to do something last minute, and a chief exec is shouting at you about media coverage, your garage is on their phone saying your car is knackered, and YOU’RE knackered – you just go, “Ok, I’ll see what I can do”.

Then later, when you’re on your fifteenth coffee of the day it occurs to you “WHY didn’t I say NO?!!” Here’s why.

There are times when life is going ok, and you’re in a good place, that you can be on a mission. You take on those little battles and improve things. Say no. Speak truth to power. Mastermind the most genius strategic campaign of the century. And then there are times when it’s not worth the hassle.

Sometimes we hold on to our energy to just get into work and do an ok job, so we have something left to give attention to what’s going on right now – our grief, kids, illness, heartbreak, or a new love affair. The life stuff that matters more than work.

You can’t give 100% of your effort to work 100% of the time (no matter what we say in interviews). That’s just how it works. You can always improve things – but there will still always be dream days and reality days.

You’re not alone.

You’re doing great work – just not all the time, because that would be impossible.

I think the way to have more dream days, and better comms strategy, is to make time to learn cool techniques and get support from other talented people.

That’s why our Comms Creatives online courses all come with video lessons, live coaching, and lovely networking groups to discuss the realities and share the dreams of being in comms.

If you work with social media, you’ll love our Social Media Managers Academy.

We’d love to have you in our gang.

A version of this post was first published over on the fantastic Poppulo blog, thanks to them for letting me share my doddles there too.

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