Luke Blair: Getting the basics right

Getting the basics right is a phrase that perhaps most often pops up on training courses, in interviews, or during pitches.

Luke Blair: The basics are often not covered
Luke Blair: The basics are often not covered

But having once again spent another fascinating day judging public sector awards for the CIPR, I wonder whether it should be stamped more indelibly across the desks– or possibly foreheads – of colleagues in agencies, in house teams, and indeed in client organisations.

The reason I say this is because so many times, in both award entries and more generally, I find myself sitting there thinking "This person/team/piece of work has not covered the basics…"

So without wanting to sound too much like a grumpy old man (even though my age would probably allow me the privilege), what do I mean by the basics? Well, it could be quite a long list covering everything from proofreading, grammar and sense-checking, to account management, budget handling and strategic planning.

It could cover well crafted key messages, carefully handled stakeholder relations, accurately interpreted data or intelligence, or successfully landed internal comms.

It could cover all those things, but I think what I really mean by ‘the basics’ is common sense.

So many times, a client or PR agency or in house team does not seem to sit down, think about what is actually required, and put in place a simple, common sense process or piece of work to make sure things happen in an organised, efficient way.

So many times, teams within the very same organisation or even the same building or office do not speak enough to each other, are not co-ordinated, and allow things to slip.

Databases are not kept up to date, diaries not properly set up, and before you know where you are, opportunities have passed by, the PR potential has gone, and communications look distracted, or even incompetent.

And this happens at a high profile, well-resourced national level, when one might think there was less excuse for leaving such gaping holes, as much as at a smaller, more local level where you might at least say that failing to cover the basics is unlikely on most days to cause an entire system to fall over, or tip into crisis.

Of course we are all busy – increasingly so – but all the more reason then to be more organised, and be even more efficient, as tasks and work and life get ever harder to balance.

Since I mentioned the word ‘grumpy’ I should just add that I am not querulously advocating some grim, grey world peopled by automatons who never make a mistake and never take risks, have fun, or relax.

All of those balances are needed if we are to be creative and think laterally, as well as be efficient and think in a straight

Yes, it is true that none of this is particularly easy, but it is also true that it is all common sense.


Luke Blair is a director a London Communications Agency.

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