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Switch up your comms techniques to face 2020 and beyond

By Charlotte Stoel, Client Services Director at Firefly Communications

Agility, adaptability, ability to pivot, the age of disruption… anyone else seeing these words and phrases in constant use? I mean, they’ve been buzzwords for a long time, but COVID-19 has meant that people in marketing can’t go a week – a day, even – without hearing or reading these words.

But in fairness to all those who utter them, and despite us becoming deaf to them due to overuse, you can’t deny that it’s a disruptive time for every organisation and there is a real need to be agile, adapt and possibly pivot.

For the comms world, 2020 plans have been redrafted, maybe redrafted again, some parts pushed back, some brought forward, no doubt some curve balls in there too. When in crisis mode, it’s all rush rush, but what about after? How do we go back to some version of normality?

Autumn is a classic time for planning and Firefly CEO, Claire Walker, just recently gave great advice on planning – it’s an essential read for those in PR and comms. I’d like to follow with my thoughts on re-thinking ways of working and equipping your team and/or agency to finish 2020 on a high note, and face 2021 in a strong position.

Collaboration in bursts

We’re used to sitting in meetings to plan out a whole year, but this is difficult when it’s so hard to see what’s ahead. For some people who pride themselves on being organised in advance, this could mean a big change in how they work – and it might feel uncomfortable at first. It is important to understand the general direction, so know your destination and broadly the key stages you need to reach to get there. But there’s no use in setting out lots of details upfront, because all industries are changing at speed and you may find that all the planning time goes to waste. It’s better to regroup more frequently in shorter bursts – maybe quarterly, or around core comms campaigns – whichever suits your organisation. And in a shorter planning cycle –there’s even more of a need to set out realistic timelines.

Real-time visibility

It’s easy these days to have real-time visibility on comms campaigns. There are many tools and project management technologies that enable this transparency – like Basecamp, Trello, even Google docs. Having this is great, but it’s what you do with it that counts. Seeing a comms campaign roll-out in real-time means you can course-correct or find more ways to optimise in the moment, rather than wait for it to end before realising it had more potential. For example, a whitepaper may be flying on LinkedIn and not getting the engagement through direct marketing channels, in which case it may be worth pumping more resources into LinkedIn to make it go that much further.

Set guidelines for manoeuvrability

We believe in being as self-sufficient as possible – that’s how things get done, and fast! To do this right, everyone must be clear on the ‘rules’. For example, you may run comms in multiple countries, so how strict are your localisation rules – does a comms team in France have the flexibility to re-write copy keeping the essence of the original content, or should they largely translate and localise only where needed? These pre-set guidelines mean that your comms team is able to plough on and get more done, rather than asking permission…or worse, waiting for instruction! Essentially, you’re making efficiencies by avoiding hesitation.

Faster feed of knowledge

It’s important for everyone on a comms team to be completely up-to-speed on the market, products, services, the business… everything. That knowledge means that comms is clearer and on point, and often sparks new ideas and approaches. And this knowledge comes from multiple sources – internally and externally – through videos, articles, other people’s expertise, online courses, books, events, podcasts…the list goes on. But as well as the comms team having a mentality to always seek knowledge, they must be sharers.

All these approaches give comms greater flexibility – both in facing challenges and seizing opportunities. Yes, yes, I know, I’m talking in buzz words again – but it’s true. Everything is moving faster, it’s ever-changing and working the ‘old way’ won’t cut it anymore.

What we know is that we cannot possibly think that the end of 2020 and 2021 will be ‘normal’ years, because they just won’t. So, instead of focussing of planning, focus on preparedness.