There's the comms dream… and then there's the reality.
— July 28th, 2020
If you ever have that feeling that you’re a chaotic mess, everything is being flung at you, and this is not how you want to work – chill.
You might think, ‘How do other people do strategic comms so effortlessly?’. The thing is, you actually know how to be strategic, but you often seem to be in circumstances that don’t allow a strategic approach to happen.
It’s easy to imagine that the successful comms pros are strategic all the time: they put their creative ideas into practice, they say no to anything that’s not in their plan, they get recognition from their bosses, and they get awards because they’re the most talented and worthy.
How to communicate change in difficult times
And you wonder, ‘how can I be more like them’? Here’s a secret: most of those successful people ARE like that – but only for a few days per month, or year. All you know about is what they got right. Your hero didn’t win awards by telling people all the times they were late to a meeting, with dry shampoo in the hair and cat hair all over their jacket.
The high achievers don’t do presentations about when they took on too much work and let someone down with a half-finished job. They are human too, but they tell you what they did that was good, and sounded like it was part of the plan.
The truth is, most people at some point are swimming in chaos, flapping about, and hosing down fires. Because life, and work, isn’t straight-forward.
Strategies are made for perfect worlds
Many strategies are made with a stable environment in mind, and a rose-tinted view of how complex organizations behave. However, even in the healthiest working cultures, you’re in an uncontrollable situation. Your colleagues and clients each have different personal and professionals ideas, goals, and ambitions. They have good days and bad days, which will affect how they work with you.
There are things they don’t know about our profession, that they don’t know they don’t know. Leaders tell you they want one thing, but actually want something else. Your market research may tell you that your audience likes something, but actually they don’t want it.
External factors – pandemics, news agendas, the economy, even the flipping weather – can throw us a curveball. No wonder our jobs are difficult! Then there is us.
We can fix some things, but not everything
We see lots of ways we could improve our working practices, and we want to get rid of this blasted fire-fighting, reactive way of working. But when someone you like asks you to do something last minute, and a chief exec is shouting at you about media coverage, your garage is on their phone saying your car is knackered, and YOU’RE knackered – you just go, “Ok, I'll see what I can do”.
Then later, when you’re on your fifteenth coffee of the day it occurs to you “WHY didn’t I say NO?!!” Here’s why.
There are times when life is going ok, and you’re in a good place, that you can be on a mission. You take on those little battles and improve things. Say no. Speak truth to power. Mastermind the most genius strategic campaign of the century. And then there are times when it’s not worth the hassle.
Sometimes we hold on to our energy to just get into work and do an ok job, so we have something left to give attention to what’s going on right now – our grief, kids, illness, heartbreak, or a new love affair. The life stuff that matters more than work.
You can’t give 100% of your effort to work 100% of the time (no matter what we say in interviews). That’s just how it works. You can always improve things – but there will still always be dream days and reality days. You’re not alone. You’re doing great work - just not all the time, because that would be impossible.
I think the way to grow and have more dream days is to make time to learn cool techniques and get support from other talented people. That’s why our Comms Creatives online courses all come with video lessons, live coaching, and lovely networking groups to discuss the realities and share the dreams of being in comms.
We’d love to have you in our gang.