Wednesday, March 24, 2010

do you run communications? which way?

In many communications operations, running things means deadlines are chasing you--you're trying to stay one step ahead of demands, requests, unexpected crises, that undone wish list, external critics.  And because you have metrics and standards and objectives, you have periodic staff meetings to review the progress of each team or team member, or to report steps forward once a week or once a month.

I can't think of a better way to get caught, frankly.  Running while looking over your shoulder is a recipe for tripping and falling.

Instead of reviewing progress in meetings, reboot your process so you and your team are facing forward and looking ahead. In the busiest and most productive communications shops I've worked with, the team meets at least weekly to pour all their knowledge and focus into these questions:
  • What do we expect will become known about our company/organization/agency in the next week? Month? Six months?
  • Which of those public matters are we generating? Which are thrust upon us?  What external events do we know about that might become factors?
  • Is there something happening now that's not public but might become so? How are we prepared for that?
  • Among them, where are the fixed and the flexible deadlines? When push comes to shove, what gets shoved?  Where conflicts arise, which item takes priority?
  • If we needed to move an announcement up and do it in less time, how would we do that?
  • How do each of these situations fit with our overall image and brand?  Are they contributing or not?
  • What are the tough questions that might be raised, and how will we answer them?  (You might want to work through three kinds of questions: Those you want, those you expect and those you fear.)
  • Who's handling this? What do they need to bring this to a good conclusion? What are the known barriers?
In such a crucible, you can vet not only projects you originate, but those brought to you as prospects from your internal clients or external partners.  Your entire team will understand the decision-making process, and progress updates can take place outside a meeting format, since everyone has the same context--or a short followup meeting can be scheduled on a particular project that's on fire.  And you won't be caught running to stay one step ahead of your deadlines. You'll be leading the pack and setting its direction.

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