What if we all were a little more intentional in our actions in 2019? Made a conscious decision to think about what we want to accomplish and then sketch out a path to get there.
One of the biggest opportunities for companies, in my experience, is to do just that. To stop and consider what, how – and then, where.
What do we need to accomplish?
How do we get there?
Where are we on our path to achieving those goals?
Today’s companies are dealing with a wide range of issues that could be better addressed through being more thoughtful – attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent, a multi-generational workforce, brand awareness (with key audiences), and brand reputation/management.
That’s a lot of buzzwords. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate just what “more thoughtful” might look like.
What’s interesting about hiring is that many companies treat it differently – put it in a separate bucket – than brand management. While the audience is different, the goal is the same: you want your brand to be more attractive to the right person/people than your competitor’s. In this case, rather than buying your product or your service, companies are asking someone to give their most precious resource: their time. Think about that for a minute. You are asking someone to spend more time working for you than with their family or doing the things they love. Yes, you pay them for their time, but in this life – as we all learn (especially as we age) – time is the most valuable currency.
So, if your goal is to hire a certain number of people this year, start there and work backwards.
Assess how you compare to other companies. If a prospect came to your website and that of your competitor, would they be more interested in you?
Identify what process you have in place. Do you have an established recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process? The minute an individual looks at your brand and thinks about applying/working for you, they are possible advocates for your brand. Their experience will influence the way they talk about your brand. Even if they don’t end up working for you, they could recommend the next best employee or customer. Or, worse, they could become a critic.
Take the journey. Don’t assume you know what it’s like to be a candidate. Pretend to be one. What is it like to search for jobs on your website and/or social media sites? How about the process of submitting a resume? Step into your audiences’ shoes and take notes – and then make a plan to address what you find.
Ask the people who know best. Conduct research with current employees. Ask them about their own experience as a recruit and new hire. Solicit their feedback – what can and should change? Leverage their feedback and insights to keep the things that work and fix those that need honing.
One thing you shouldn’t do – especially in today’s environment where companies are competing for talent – is to assume. Taking the time to think through not only tactics, but what goals are behind those tactics, is critical to building a plan that addresses your company’s specific goals.
If you’re a podcast person, you can check out the episode of the “You Can’t Engineer Human” podcast where I talk with host Elizabeth Frisch about how companies can be more thoughtful in the ways they address the recruiting and retention issue.
Brand awareness is important for many companies, and media relations is often a big part of that. With a big chunk of my time having been spent working with companies on their media strategies and execution over the years, I can say with confidence that companies are often more concerned with numbers and prestige than value and strategy.
So, before you spend the time and money deploying a PR program, think about how you want that program to support your business goals – and how it can/should be integrated into your other efforts.
Ensure you know who your key audiences are. Many companies overlook their main audiences (in many cases, this would be their buyers) and try to reach the wrong group. For example, many executives want the prestige of an article in the Wall Street Journal, but the typical WSJ reader might not be someone with whom they regularly interact.
Have something to say to that audience. The media landscape has changed significantly over the past several years. Gone are the days of sending a press release over the wire and having articles written about you and your news. Coverage requires a point of view. What are some observations you’ve made about your audiences? Do you have a unique perspective on ways to address their pain points (that do not point specifically to your product)? How can you establish yourself as a partner to those audiences – where they look to you for insights? (Marketing & communications expert Parry Headrick recently posted a quick video on this – it’s not about relationships with reporters; it’s about the story.)
Organize your internal team to leverage efforts. A media program is a waste of money if deployed in a silo. Any program to elevate your brand’s awareness should at least include content, social media, earned media and sales support/enablement. Without a collaborative environment and structure, you will miss out on so many opportunities to optimize your efforts across the organization and audiences.
Identify the business goals tied to elevated awareness. Is there a priority audience you are trying to reach? A new offering for which you need to generate sales? Looking out at the year ahead, what are the top goals for your business? Go down the list and talk through how elevated awareness could drive results, or at least get you further along on the path to achieving them.
For example, say you want to get 50 new clients in one key area of your business. What could you do to move closer to that goal? Perhaps an eBook on a topic that resonates with that group that you share via social media, make available for download on your website, hand out at an industry event, break up into contributed articles, and send to prospects. (Going back to the aforementioned point, can you see how a team that works and collaborates together would optimize your efforts?)
These are just a few ways companies can be more thoughtful in these two areas. Maybe you have spent time identifying your audience(s) and point of view, but have a team that’s siloed and less effective than it could be. These ideas are not meant to be a paved path; rather, (hopefully) a spark of something that’s relevant to your unique situation.
The reality is, most companies end up in reactive, survival mode. It’s hard to step back and take the time to think about how all the pieces connect together, and how something done by the sales team can help customer service. Or how a marketing campaign can inform accounting. We can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t try. But there are questions we can ask and a small amount of time we can carve out to be more intentionally thoughtful about the actions we do take.
Small steps taken one after another can lead to really great places – and having (or drawing) a map can make sure you get where you need.