Big ideas win clients. No disagreement here. But too often, we get swept away striving for "The big idea" and forgetting about the real challenge our clients face – demonstrating return on investment.
We need to start approaching planning and process differently. With many clients, we tend to be swept away in the day-to-day grind and joining the internal comms team in the six-year-old soccer game dynamic (ball tossed, everyone chases ball).
I get it; it’s very hard to see the forest when you’re smacked in the face with trees every day. But, we can do better. If we are looking to not just provide service, but looking to truly affect how our clients communicate to influencers and key audiences, we need to show up differently not only with creative thinking, but a way to organize it.
This is where process becomes critical. Smart corporate communicators are starting to understand the value of a simple, linear, and consistent process. This process helps determine the best programs to advance and provides a "gap analysis" on issues that need ideation.
Assume that ABC has determined, with our partnership, that its message architecture consists of four pillars of sustainability, jobs, security and innovation. Each of these pillars supports the overarching narrative. We have also identified 12 key audiences and know from our research that driving our core messages to these audiences results in enhanced trust, stronger reputation, and deeper relationships.
Through a quarterly process, we evaluate proposed projects, events, initiatives, announcements, etc. from each department. These programs are "scored" based on their ability to drive core message pillars to our key stakeholders. The more messages we can drive to a broad audience, the more impactful the program. The more impactful the program, the more resources, rigor, and focus are put behind it. Programs or initiatives that will not achieve key message delivery to core audiences get less.
It’s not just about deciding what to do - it’s also deciding what not to do.
Further – it allows for us to identify which message pillars are not adequately represented in that quarter. Here is where we get to do the big ideas. We can bring in smart thinking to create critical moments that drive those messages and storylines that need amplification.
And lastly, we measure. We can now analyze the success or failure of each program to understand if it delivered our core messages to our key audience.
We will always be judged on our creativeness, strategic insight, and the ability to create "moments" through signature programs and big ideas. But in between those opportunities, we can increase our value through an actualized process that truly separates "motion" from "progress."
Greg St. Claire is EVP of corporate issues management at Edelman in Washington, DC.