Projects with a variety of clients have caused me to think about the importance of focus. Of knowing where we’re going. Of making sure we are on the same track as senior managers on the same track. As Zig Ziglar said,
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
We may not all use those 24 hours the same way but we can do better. Some thoughts:
- If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there.
- Senior management needs to be on board before you can get anywhere.
- Technology can definitely get in the way.
Let me address each of those.
If you aren’t focused on where you’re going you won’t know when you get there is true for nearly everyone and all professions. A clear goal or measure of success is the only thing allowing you to remain focused in your work. It dictates writing style, messaging, layout and more. Having this focus means teams can work smarter because they are focused on the end goal.
Senior management’s buy-in is critical. I’ve worked on several projects recently that appear to be on track until the director review level. It’s then it becomes really apparent the senior level of the company isn’t on board with what you’ve been doing. It means we are all wasting our time and the company’s money.
Oftentimes we start work without making sure we’ve secured that buy-in, but we’ve instead spent hours with the project’s stakeholders. They’ve told us what they want, but maybe we haven’t listened. It’s why I tell people when they’re in a research phase they have to listen to people as well as HEAR them.
Like many people today, I couldn’t live without my technology. It helps me stay organized, on task and keep in touch with people. But it’s not a substitute for being with people, although I see many crouch behind it for safety. Project management systems, computerized tasks lists, and even contact management systems are only as good as the people who use them and the face-to-face meetings that progress alongside.
So, what does a public relations professional do to make sure projects stay on track?
- Write a plan – even if it’s only one page, or even smaller.
- When you’re writing pieces going out for review, include a review of the purpose, audience and primary messages at the top of the document. It reminds reviewers what they are reading.
- Before you even start work on a project, make sure senior managers are in agreement with the project.
- Critically listen to those on the team to make sure you’re completing the task to their parameters.
- For better success, focus your energy on the ultimate decision makers even if they aren’t your primary contact.
- Use technology to make your life easier and keep projects on task but don’t use them at the expense of not talking with the team.
What techniques do you use to keep projects on track through the review and approval process?