The impending Labor Day weekend sadly marks the end of summer and signals the waning months of the year. I must admit, the upcoming months are probably my favorites … the return of football, toasty fires, crunchy, fallen leaves and the holidays. Professionally, these next few months are always busy ones. It’s usually a near-frenetic pace as I’m finishing up projects that need to be completed by the end of the year and at the same time, working on the upcoming year’s agenda.
For the editorial services portion of Pickett&Associates, this means laying out the upcoming year of themes, content ideas and editorial tweaks; developing new media kits and brainstorming any new initiatives that will lend to an improved product. (And watch for a very exciting announcement on this front very soon!)
For the strategic public relations part of the business, I will be meeting with clients to establish their 2011 communications plans, which begins with an evaluation of the current year’s work. What worked and what didn’t? What are the company’s strategic business goals that need to be integrated into the plan?
I believe that both processes require significant input from clients, but not everyone agrees. Last year, I found myself working on these annual plans without any real input from clients. When I inquired about the process, I was informed that, “Our clients expect us to know them and their business. We don’t ask them what they want, we tell them what they need.” It felt weird, but I plugged on. Take it for what it’s worth, but very few of those clients “re-upped” for 2010.
If our goal as public relations professionals is to have that “seat at the management table,” it’s imperative to be an integrated part of the business planning and strategy process. In my mind, it only makes sense to work together in a mutually respectful and beneficial manner. Not doing so seems “a major disconnect” at best and, at worst, feels a little like “riding rough shod” over one’s client.
Companies work through this process in a number of ways … some take part in management retreats that include team building activities and a bit of fun as well as some intensive work sessions. Others bring in “facilitators” who lend an objective ear to the “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and the ensuing strategy. As a communications professional, involvement in this process can prove exceedingly helpful. It is NOT a time to present ideas or show “how smart” you are; it IS a time to observe, listen and learn. Noting the inner-workings of the organization – including any changes from previous years if you have that history – provides a better understanding that lends itself to a communication strategy that will be embraced by the organization.
And that sort of “buy in” is essential for the plan’s success. Without it, you’ll be swimming up-stream all year … if you’re even allowed to take a dip in the water!
What are you doing to get ready for 2011? I’d love to hear how your business is setting the stage for the upcoming year!