Turn Around and Communicate Strategically

strategic communications, communications strategy, The Seven Secrets of Strategic Communications, Communications Audit Best Practices

Secret #1: Turn Around

What comes to mind when you think, “communications strategy?”

Sounds good, but I really don’t have the time.

I know what I’m doing, we’ll get the results we want or at least move the ball forward a little. So why slow down to map out what’s in my head?

Thanks for the plan, but who’s going to actually DO the work?

We feel your pain. There’s nothing worse than slowing down before you ramp up. You feel it in your bones—this frenzy to just plow forward and get stuff done. It seems counter-intuitive and even a little un-American to slow down!

It’s just plain hard to stop DOING. In the corporate world, we get caught up in this feeling that our value is somehow directly linked to our output. As if cranking out enough widgets will eventually culminate in a pile so big that the world will HAVE to pat us on the back and say, “well done.”

Well, what if that pile of widgets is really just a pile of… well… you know?

The companies and teams that are really making strides in their industry are lead by creative ideas. These ideas aren’t born in cubicle farms where teams just churn out products all day long. They’re created outside of the do-or-die paradigm by leaders who set aside time to THINK—which brings us to the first of the seven secrets of strategic communications.

It’s Time for a Communications Turnaround

Communicating without a plan is kind of like walking and texting. You’re going somewhere, but when you get there you can’t really recall any details from your journey. And if you’re not careful you could end up like these folks.

So before you walk headlong into a fountain or get mauled by a bear, take some time to assess the lay of the land. This part of the process is only about past communications. We’re looking simply at what has been done. There are NO value judgements here. It’s an objective assessment of the state of your communications at this particular point in time.

This phase of communications planning is quite grossly referred to as “the communications audit.” But who wants to do an audit?!?!?

At Lab Monkey Communications, we call it The Turnaround—not just because we’re looking back, but because this practice of looking back leads to turnarounds in the way our clients communicate going forward.

Start by pulling every little piece out into the light—all PDFs, all email or text campaigns, all online ads, and all of the other communications from the past 365 days. Then, catalogue them by categories—such as key messages, audiences, internal departments, etc. Spread these pieces out somewhere that you can continue adding to the piles over the span of about a week. You’ll find that as you move through this process you’ll recall various campaigns or pieces that need to be filled in or hunted down and added to your stacks.

Dedicating a week to cataloguing an entire year’s worth of communications may seem like overkill but it’s usually the right amount of time for our clients. It’s just enough time to make real progress without losing focus or getting frustrated from an unsettling pause in production.

When you think you’re done gathering your past year’s worth of communications, take some time to write down the main categories you’ve created and list the pieces you’ve assigned to each section. We’re sort of anal about these things at Lab Monkey Communications, so you’ll find our Turnaround Reports in Excel (though beautifully formatted, we must say). But if you’re doing this at your own pace, do whatever works for you. The point is to easily identify what has been done in the past 365 days.

In next week’s follow-up post we’ll begin making sense of this big mess you just made. For now, just making the mess is all you have to worry about!

So go reserve that big conference room down the hall. This week, you’re about to make The Turnaround!


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